Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade
, Jan 2, 2014.
Great to see more about Elrond and his mixed heritage
I love the humanity and warmth of this update. You really conveyed a sense of hope, of renewal, rejuvenation and fresh beginnings, on a multitude of levels: in the establishment of Imladris, and in the blossoming romance. It is just so uplifting and inspiring to read.
Oh, Glorfindel! He's incorrigible -- but to good effect!
The gorgeous dawn scene with which you concluded this was utterly perfect. The sunrise and waterfall motifs beautifully encapsulated everything about the chapter, the hope and sense of wondrous, awestruck discovery of Imladris in its youth, and of its future Lord and Lady coming to know each other.
I just wanted to say, as well, that I think your Elrond is the most heartstring-tugging version of him I've come across -- in the sense of being warm, alive, and fully realised/rendered with great depth, humour, tenderness, humanity and compassion
Nyota's Heart: First off, thank you so very much for saying so. I'm glad that their relationship has felt right so far. And Glorfindel. He was just a treat to write on so many levels.
RX_Sith: I think so too.
earlybird-obi-wan: He really is a . . . unique combination of heritage and circumstance, that is for sure. I'm glad that you are enjoying.
Cael-Fenton: I am so glad to hear the update struck you so! And Elrond! I think you can pay me no higher compliment than that - I have such a love for his character! For, after all that he has gone through and endured, Tolkien to still describe him with 'eyes as kind as summer' - he stole my heart then and there, and I have yet to look back since.
Now, that said, here we are with more!
By the time we made it down from the summit, clouds had thickened overhead, turning the dome of the sky dark with storms. Rain chased our steps, turning from a warning sprinkle to a steady downpour with little warning in between.
We made it back to the settlement, and stopped behind the colonnade of twining pillars framing the main compound; gazing out at the downpour as it bathed the world in a laughing dance of white light and murmured noise. I could not hope to dry my hair completely, but I wrung out the soaked mass, and combed my fingers through the ruined shape of my braids as best I could. My eyes were alight as I did so, brightening with mirth every time I caught Elrond's gaze. He was doing the same as me, though his progress was slower, and I liked to think that it was due to his trying to discreetly look my way.
“It is not yet warm enough for storms,” was my conclusion when we were dry enough to return inside. I felt myself shiver, but even the cold could not dampen my high spirits.
“I would give you my cloak,” Elrond offered ruefully, “but I believe that would do more harm than good.”
Sure enough, the heavy fabric was sodden, and he soon cast it aside, even as I did my own. I knew that I should return to our suite and redress in dry, warm clothes, but I could not bring myself to do so. Elrond seemed as disinclined to part from me as I was from him, and he instead lingered under the pretense of showing me their progress building indoors. We wandered through many empty rooms and passed by many scenic overlooks, pausing overlong in one long hall with a fire constantly burning in an ornate pit at the furthest end. Upon first reaching the valley, elves like Lindir had taken it upon themselves to entertain the war-sick soldiers and refugees, and songs had become a daily routine in the evenings. During the day, the Hall of Fire was used for peaceful solitude and contemplation, Elrond explained, but at night, the acoustics of the hall were perfect for songs as the minstrels wove their takes and spun their melodies.
“Perhaps you could convince Lindir to sing this night,” Elrond suggested. “Besides Maglor and Daeron of old, there are few as pleasing to the ear as he.”
I was more than eager to do so, I answered, and we turned from the hall while speaking of our personal preferences in stories and songs. He, somewhat amusingly, had heard the Lay of Lúthien so many times that he hoped to never hear it again - seeing as every elf with a harp was eager to give their version of the tale in his presence. This, he said in a conspiratorial whisper, as if sharing a great secret. In reply, I fixed my face in a mask of solemn gravity and promised never to tell. I next confessed my love of heroic epics – everything from the stories of Beleg Strongbow to the dashing deeds of Glorfindel Balrog-slayer himself. This I admitted with a flush worn high on my cheeks, unable to look him in the eye as I said so.
“Only, do not tell Glorfindel that,” Elrond commented after his amusement ebbed. “For we shall never hear the end of it.”
Trying not to laugh, I managed to gave my solemn vow in reply, upon which, we came to where the upper hall intersected with a long balcony, overlooking what would eventually be a grand and spiraling library below. The space was mostly through its initial construction, with pillars and balconies and partial shelves already put into place. The stone-masons' and carpenters' work was already done, and nothing but the detail-work of the artists awaited the great space. Now came the long and arduous task of filling the shelves with words; a task which Elrond was looking forward to with some relish, if the quick shape of his words was anything to go by.
On the main floor of the library, I looked down to see where Erestor was carefully sorting through crates of books and scrolls. There were a dozen rolls of parchment already covering the long table in the middle of the floor, where the collection was carefully cataloged and documented as it was created. Books were stacked in orderly piles, while large, bright candles dominated the center of the space; their wax dripping down their holders in great and bubbling masses before pooling on the lacquered surface of the table.
Half-sitting, half-leaning against the desk was Glorfindel, who did not move to help the his friend, so much as he was enjoying distracting the Steward in any way possible. He wore a lazy smile on his face, while Erestor's grim features were creased in a scowling line – an expression which only seemed to please Glorfindel all the more so as the furrow between his brows grew.
Our clothes were mostly dry by that time, even though my hair was still damp enough that I was conscious of keeping it from touching anything as we gave our cheerful greetings. Erestor looked up as we approached, and the steel grey of his eyes turned considering as he took in our appearance. He politely said nothing - unlike Glorfindel, who saw no need to hide his arched brow or pleased grin.
Seeing this, Erestor sighed in well meaning exasperation. He narrowed his eyes, and made a shooing gesture to move Glorfindel from the desk. “There are a handful of rather sturdy chairs you can make use of if you do not wish to stand,” he pointed out crossly. “Would you be so kind as to do so?”
“And yet,” Glorfindel cheerfully ignored him, “I can watch your progress all the more so from here. It would be detrimental to my best interests to move.”
Erestor only glowered, and pointedly moved a scroll to make sure that it was not sat upon. “You are wrinkling the parchment,” he chided sternly.
“Show me the harm done, and I will gladly relocate myself,” Glorfindel returned, shifting his weight so that he sat even more obnoxiously on the desk. Were he not as tall as he was, I believe he would have kicked his feet back and forth like a child. “And yet, as I see not a crease on the scroll . . . I do not see where the nuisance lies.”
“You are the only nuisance here,” was all the Steward muttered in reply. As I watched their banter, I felt amusement fill me for their camaraderie, no matter the form it took.
Erestor then ignored the other man in favor of moving on to the next crate, not once looking up as he switched strides to say: “You were missed at breakfast, my lord.”
“I was quite distracted by the view this morning,” Elrond answered in turn, kneeling down to better see the books Erestor was carefully freeing from their packaging of straw and sheep's fleece. “I lost track of time.”
Beyond us, thunder rumbled lazily through the valley, playing a low counterpoint to the steady pitter-patter of the rain upon the roof. “Yes,” Erestor commented dryly, “The sunrise must have been quite the view.”
Glorfindel gave a snort of amusement, and added, “Bethril saved a portion for you in the kitchens.” I felt as his Tree-bright eyes turned to me, and lingered. “Both for you, and for the lady.”
At that, the severe lines of Erestor's face twitched in a way that could have been amusement, if not an outright smile. I ducked my face to hide my flush, before kneeling to see what treasures Erestor unearthed from the crate.
“What are these?” I asked, curious to see the old, elegant lines of Quenya decorating the tomes. Most were much older than I . . . much older than the First Age, I understood from the archaic, high form of the script - a form little used outside of far Valinor itself.
“This is what remains of Celebrimbor's personal collection,” Erestor explained in a soft voice. He ran a reverent hand over the spine of one of the books. “Not only were these his own journals and accounts, but most of the collective lore of the Fëanorians was kept with Celebrimbor, thus surviving the destruction of Beleriand.”
Hearing this, I leaned forward in fascination, then understanding that the old, beautiful volumes must have been penned by Fëanor himself - in Valinor, where he created the script we still used for Quenya today. These were his journals, allowing us a peak into the awesome depths of his genius' mind. I glanced over the titles, seeing his wealth of knowledge for blacksmithing and other sciences put openly on display. I picked up one journal, and found my spirit touched by a heavy weight as I came to understand the sloppy, slanting motion of his letters - spinning theories of conspiracies and spying enemies in every shadow. To see the sad deterioration of the once great might of his mind, corrupted by Morgoth's vile taint before the Darkening . . . These journals provided a sobering insight, and I placed the book aside with a solemn respect for the words within.
I glanced through more of the titles as Erestor sorted them, next seeing Maglor Fëanorian's memoirs from his few, harrowing years as King of the Noldor in Exile. Those days had been before the rise of the Sun, with his father dead and his eldest brother suffering a living death in Morgoth's hold . . . here he outlined the trials of trying to govern a people who regretted leaving Valinor in the first place, who doubted the hand set at their yoke in every way. His weariness and feelings of guilt and inadequacy fairly dripped from the pages, and those too I pushed aside to read another time.
I moved on, next finding not a book, but a leather wrapped collection of Maedhros and Fingon's letters, from when they jointly orchestrated the Siege of Angband together. Those days had been dark underneath the shadow of Morgoth, yet bright with the silver lining of hope while the Oath of Fëanor coincided with the good of Middle-earth for the briefest of times. The letters were dry in content, pertaining mainly to official matters of state, yet there were lines of humor and fondness scattered throughout. I looked, and found hidden riddles and shared anecdotes, telling of a friendship thousands of years old hidden underneath the rote and the mundane. I ran a wondering hand over the carefully preserved pages, eager to someday read more of the words within.
Yet, it was the next leather bound volume that drew my eye, and took my breath. The gilded letters were not in any elven tongue, but rather, in a dwarvish language - an ancient, and now dead form of Khuzdul.
“The memoirs of Telchar,” I read aloud on an exhale of breath, seeing the scribe's note inside the front cover, “Gifted by Azaghâl his king to Maedhros Fëanorian upon his death, to further the arts of the Noldorin smiths . . .”
My heart leapt with memory, and I blinked against my suddenly burning eyes. Nothri had tried for years to translate the few broken remnants of Telchar's journals that survived into the Second Age. Now, to hold this in my hands when he was no longer alive to appreciate the find . . .
“Nothri would have loved this,” I whispered, unaware of the eyes upon me as I opened the ancient tome with a reverent hand. My eyes skimmed over the beautifully harsh runes, finding a dragon's horde of lost art and preserved knowledge on the pages within.
“Nothri?” Glorfindel leaned over to ask, curiosity lining his voice.
“The same as Nothri Stonehand, son of Fáfnir, son of Fálki , son of Durin, the second of his name?” Erestor raised a brow as he said.
“The last great King of Moria,” I concluded in answer. “When my mother and I first passed through the mountains, Nothri was very young, and he became my friend,” I explained. “He remained so through the last days of his life.”
The tips of my fingers turned white upon the spine of the book, before I forced my grip to relax, the pain of missing passing in favor of the soft, bittersweet joy of memory. I looked up to see Elrond's eyes upon me, his gaze warm in shape . . . so very warm. I then remembered holding his hand during the sunrise, when his memories became heavy for him to bear, and I felt the strong instinct to reach over and do so again. I watched the way he held his own book more firmly in hand, and wondered if he remembered the same as I.
“I read some of Nothri's work in Ost-in-edhil,” Erestor inclined his head, breaking through the heaviness of the moment. “He was a gifted scholar, rare as such interests were amongst the Dwarves.”
“He would have been pleased to be remembered as such,” I said, fondness leeching into my voice. I again looked down at the book in my hands, skimming over the words as a I flipped through the pages.
“Can you read this?” Elrond asked, seeing that my eyes did not just glance at the words, but rather, took their meaning in.
“Yes,” I answered. The text was very old, written in a day when the Dwarves did not so carefully guard their language and their names. Few alive, even amongst the Dwarves, would know this tongue now. “I know three different variations of Khuzdul - for Nothri enjoyed sharing of his own people, just as much as he was eager to learn of my own.”
Erestor blinked, and I looked up, understanding that I had impressed him without trying to do so. “You are in rare company then, my lady,” he said. “Even Elrond here knows only the basics of their language.”
“Hear that?” Glorfindel said to Elrond in obvious amusement. “There is something the lady may teach you, my lord. I did not first think such a thing possible.” The white-blue light of his eyes flashed in a way I could not tell for teasing or approval.
Elrond raised a brow at Glorfindel's words, but I was only curious as for Erestor's prior statement. “Do you know of Khuzdul?” I asked Elrond.
“A little,” Elrond answered, moving closer in order to look down at the runes. “My fa – Maedhros,” he amended, setting his jaw as if the make the words settle in as a truth, “Was close in comradeship with King Azaghâl of the Dwarves of Belegost. He learned what he could of their ways during their alliance, and what he did learn, he passed on to me after he ran out of elven tongues to share.” His eyes were fond then, as bright with memory as I imagined my own to have been mere moments ago. “I believe that it started as a challenge – for dwarven grammar is . . . perplexing in its complexity – but once the gauntlet was thrown, there was no picking it back up. I learned all Maedhros had to share, and even forced him to practice the language with me – which he did not care for doing, to put it mildly. I would have practiced with Elros, but he'd declared his mind full fit to burst with his knowing so many elven tongues, and was quite set against learning anything more.”
I listened very closely to his words, understanding from the solemn, careful faces of Erestor and Glorfindel that this was a subject not breached often – and never so easily, with such fondness and affection attached to the words. From where I knew a growing awareness of his spirit, I could feel a moment of tentative warmth, shaped as memory, before it was carefully hidden away again.
I myself was very still, glancing at the way the long fingers of his hands clenched and unclenched over the spine of his book. I wanted to ask further questions, what was so blithely regarded beforehand (it being a common phrase amongst elven parents to warn young ones to behave, lest the Fëanorians come and snatch you away) now suddenly more as the subject of the apothegm stood real before me.
I wanted to ask more, but I was not yet sure of my right to do so. So, I simply smiled as best I could, and said, “Later, I shall have to see how well you were taught,” with as much brightness in my voice as I could muster. “And we can continue on from there.”
“Indeed,” Elrond agreed with a smile, and the tense atmosphere broke as we turned to see what other treasures Celebrimbor had hidden away.
We continued on until Elrond was called away by his duties for the day. I lingered with Erestor after bidding him goodbye, not realizing how long I stayed until Glorfindel returned without my even noticing his going, placing down a wrapped gift of fruit and flat bread and commanding me to eat. He had experience in reminding absent, scholarly minds about such simple things as sustenance, and he was not surprised to find me much the same. He left shortly afterward to join Elrond, while I remained with Erestor, sorting through the endless treasures that would someday line the shelves around us.
Gil-galad himself would soon be journeying to Imladris for the council of the Wise to meet and regather themselves after the war with Sauron. Erestor and Elrond were already compiling a list of requested items for the High-king to bring, and I added my own input to the list as best I could. I sincerely enjoyed my time spent with the grim Steward - more than I would have thought, at that - and I knew pride in turn for he slowly growing approval I could see in his eyes. His humor was cutting and dry – quick enough to miss it if you but blinked – but there was a warm heart underneath his prickly demeanor, and I counted it as a success when I drew more than one smile from him during the long afternoon hours.
Eventually, I was able to coax him to speak of himself. Erestor had been a son of Fëanorian supporters, born in Amon Ereb at the end of the First Age, away from the blood and horror of the Second and Third Kinslaying. When Morgoth destroyed the last Fëanorian stronghold, a young Erestor had then joined the dwindling host of Maglor and Maedhros as they returned to the coast – where he had known Elrond in his youth, due to the closeness of their ages. He broke away from the Sons of Fëanor only to fight in the War of Wrath, and afterward he had been one of the many who migrated to Eregion with the dawn of the Second Age – as Lindon was still cold to Fëanorian sympathizers, if not overtly hostile. While Erestor was no smith, he was adapt at organization and orchestration, and he had overseen much of the goings on at the Gwaith-i-Mírdain when the mad genius of Celebrimbor's mind kept him from such 'paltry' affairs as book-keeping and day to day records.
That skill for organization had made him an invaluable ally when my father started to subtly ready those in Eregion for the inevitability of conflict, even while Annatar still reigned mighty and impenetrable at Celebrimbor's side. When the war came, he continued to make himself useful to my father, and then Elrond once he arrived with Gil-galad's forces. As such, the Stewardship of Imladris had fallen upon him, rather than it being anything he actively searched out.
After sharing his tale, he raised a brow and asked if I remembered him from my childhood – for, in his own words, he remembered more than one energetic moment from my youth, when I was landing Sítheril and I in some trouble or another. I did not remember his name, I was ashamed to say, but his face was familiar to me, and I was happy to place it then.
I stayed in the library late into the afternoon before leaving to find my parents. That evening we dined in public with the others, and were afterward treated by a long evening of song in the Hall of Fire. When Lindir picked up his harp and launched into an energetic lay involving Beleg Strongbow and a rather harrowing encounter with the Spiders of Nan Dungortheb - which unfortunately coincided with a day when the royal family, including a then child Lúthien, were picnicking on the shores of the River Mindeb on their tour of visiting all of the Sindar underneath Thingol's banner. The story was already one I knew well, and I was delighted to hear Lindir's strong voice and flair for story-telling give light to the tale now.
I glanced knowingly at Elrond, who took a seat next to me once the music started, yet he claimed to have no idea what inspired Lindir's choice for his opening act. Yet, the brief flare of satisfaction I felt from his spirit was telling enough – so telling that even Galadriel on my opposite side raised an amused brow, while my father gave a small sigh before commenting on the differences in the song's rather heroic memory and what really happened that day. (Sharing with us the rather amusing detail of the regal King Thingol covered in river-mud, and Lúthien's bell-like laughter in reply to him pushing her into the marsh-water to avoid the spider's webs.) For that, even Elrond listened in interest, and our corner of the hall soon fell under attention when Lindir sweetly asked if we would like use of his harp to better tell the story ourselves. He soon moved on to his next song, and we fell silent again, eyes twinkling and mirth high and tangible between us all as the night went on.
The next few days continued as such. I would climb up to the top of the falls in the mornings to share the sunrise with Elrond, upon which we would either part ways when he had the affairs of the valley to attend to, or he would linger with me and show me more and more of Imladris. Afterward, I would help Erestor in the library, or aid Baralin in the herb-room as she crushed and brewed and stored too many remedies to name. In the evenings, I would either dine with my parents in private, or in public, and most nights were finished in the Hall of Fire, with merriment and song.
By the end of the week, however, all of my free time was spent helping to prepare for the festival of Yestarë - the celebration of the elvish new year, marked by the first official day of spring. Here, with such a large gathering of Men living side by side with the Elves, Mettarë - the last day of winter - was observed earlier in the cold season, as a celebration of the Midwinter, to coincide with the festivals of Men. Even so, many of the elven faces I passed were quiet and thoughtful, and that night the only songs sung in the Hall were songs of thanksgiving to the earth in gratitude for the year it had given us. The winter was remembered, the loss of that season mourned, and the spring was welcomed anew with soft, hopeful voices. Even though I had seen centuries of such observances, the Songs of Mettarë were still deeply touching, holding such a magic that even the mortals listened in solemn awe - they being able to feel the change of the earth underneath their feet near as tangibly as the Firstborn could, we being of Arda down to the very fiber of our souls.
While the changing of the year was always a happy, joyous time for me, I knew nothing but a bottled sort of agitation the day before Yestarë. I had been able to lose my thoughts by making myself useful in the days before, but now, with time to myself and nothing but a restlessness underneath my skin as I racked my mind and wondered what I could possibly . . .
My anxious steps took me beyond the boundary of the settlement, to where Glorfindel had rings and targets set up – for his soldiers to train in during the long months of siege, even as they continued to do so now. The rings were empty in honor of the holiday, and I had free range of a distant target underneath a grove of blue spruce trees. Above me, squirrels chirped and birds sang in welcome to the season, while, somewhere unseen, there was an ever-constant cadence of falling water, providing a soothing backdrop to my thoughts.
Having regathered my arrows from the target, I took in a deep breath, and exhaled as I aimed. I let the arrow fly, and found the center of the target. Again . . . and again . . . My fourth arrow was off-center, however, and my fifth arrow glanced completely off the top of the ring. It went astray to pierce the underbrush, where there was the movement of some startled forest creature in reply.
I winced, and walked over to recover my arrows, when I heard the low sound of applause from behind me.
“You've grown better during our time apart,” I could hear my father say, fondness warm in his voice. “Minus your last effort, that is.”
I straightened from ruffling through the ferns, and brushed a loose strand of hair away from my face, scowling all the while. But, I was not so far gone that I could not smile ruefully at my own error. I glanced back to see Celeborn leaning against one of the evergreens, his arms loosely crossed, his own bow and quiver slung loosely over his shoulder.
“I have had the best of teachers,” I said, half bowing in reply to his words. “It is true.”
“That last bit must have been whoever you found to mentor you in Lórinand,” Celeborn quipped. “I espied a distinctly Silvan hand upon that last arrow.”
“What can I say?” I replied, tugging the arrows free of the target and returning them to my quiver, “I will never be my father's match in the art, endeavor though I may.”
“Now you flatter me needlessly, child,” Celeborn returned dryly.
By the time I returned to his side, I was smiling truly, much of my restless energy abating with his presence alone. “I am still useless with a sword,” I informed him as I took my aim once more. “I fear I will ever be.”
“Hopefully, you shall never have need of it,” Celeborn replied, all amusement falling from his voice as he said so. “I have fought in too many wars to mention to ensure that you need know not of steel – nor of any trouble.” He paused for a moment, and I turned over my taut bowstring to see his blue-grey eyes considering as they rested upon me. “And yet, trouble lines your brow, even so.”
“My thoughts are nothing as consuming as things past,” I assured him, letting my arrow fly to land respectably in one of the inner rings. “Merely the silly concerns of the now.”
“And yet,” Celeborn did not let me escape so easily. “A concern still it is. Whatever is a concern to you is a concern to me.”
“It is a silly concern,” I emphasized once more, and my words were punctuated by the resounding thud of an arrow meeting its mark. “Foolish, even.”
“Ah,” Celeborn said, lost for a moment in thoughtful silence. “Does it pertain to a certain half-elf?”
I yanked a bit on the bow as I loaded my next target, and was glad that I had not yet let the arrow go for fear of piercing the underbrush again. “Perhaps,” I admitted, and when I was returned with expectant silence, I sighed in defeat and gave: “I already have gifts chosen for you and mother; I have since before we left Lórinand. Yet, I did not think to acquaint myself with anyone in Imladris quickly enough to have to find a gift to give. Now . . .” My words tapered off, and I bit my lip, frustrated by the dead end to my thoughts. “I want to find something perfect to give him, but my mind has been most unhelpful with the matter.”
“I see where your concern lies,” he answered, staring at the target as I let my next arrow go. I was able to load and release my fourth arrow as I considered my next words. “Mind your chin,” Celeborn counseled absently, and I fixed my stance, my fifth arrow finding the center of the target with ease.
We walked down to the target together, he loosing the arrows for me while I returned them to my quiver. I turned my last arrow over in my hands, my restless fingers fiddling with the soft feathers of the fletch as I searched my mind once again. Unfortunately, I continued to come up empty.
“What should I . . .” I started carefully, “What I mean to say is: you have known Elrond for many years now, have you not?”
“Since his birth,” Celeborn inclined his head in answer. “As Eärendil was gone to sea – he knowing not of Elwing's pregnancy, and sadly returning to find his sons already taking their first steps - I welcomed the twins into the House of Finwë and Elwë in their father's stead. They were both dear to your mother and I from that day on.”
I smiled to hear so, even as a bittersweet sort of ache filled me for his words. I bit my lip, and placed my last arrow back in my quiver. “Then,” I said, trying to keep the brightness from my words, “You know him much better than I. You -”
“ - I fear that the good hunting knife I was planning to pass on is not what you were searching for in a gift,” Celeborn gave on a low chuckle.
I flushed at his words, but agreed nonetheless. “No, not particularly,” I said delicately.
Celeborn shook his head, and walked back with me to the spot opposite of the target. “Elrond will be happy with anything you give him, even if that is nothing,” he said. “In many ways, your presence alone is a gift enough. I have not seen him this content in his own skin in many, many years. Not since Elros was alive, perhaps.”
A warm sort of light filled me at his words, and I was helpless to contain the smile that touched my mouth. Celeborn noticed, but made no comment when he saw that I was slow to reload my bow again. He took my place, and aimed at the target with the ease of many millennia spent doing so. I did not need to glance to see that he found the center of the rings.
“That is why I want to think of something perfect,” I whispered, looking down at my feet as I said so. My hands tightened about my bow, feeling over the age-worn runes still etched into the smooth wood by Nothri and his friends. I heard Celeborn sigh, but there was fondness in the sound, filled with memory.
“I understand,” he said simply. “Your mother first arrived in Doriath shortly before Yestarë, and I all but fell over myself trying to find the perfect gift. It consumed my thoughts, so much so that my brother and Thranduil had ammunition to tease me mercilessly for months. I even asked Finrod for counsel - which is a memory I would sooner like to forget than recall.”
I looked up at his words, suddenly curious, for this was a tale I had not heard told before. “What did you settle on?” I asked.
“Earrings,” Celeborn answered, smoothly letting another arrow fly. “The Noldor were always adorned in some finery or another, especially in those days, and I wanted to give her something different to wear. Something unique. South of Doriath, where the falls of Sirion started the great river's course to the sea, there were stones that looked like any other river-rock, but when cut and polished they appeared to have the swirling patterns of Varda's firmament caught within their casing – especially in those days, when the light of the Sun was new, as were the colours the sunlight revealed. I spent a week's time finding the perfect, matching set, and then crafting them to wear with my own hand.”
His words touched my memory, and I thought to know the very set he spoke of – which my mother wore on only the most solemn of occasions.
“Did she like them?” I asked, wanting to hear more of the tale.
Celeborn snorted ruefully. “When she first saw them, she only stared, and raised her left brow – I trust you know the look of which I speak.”
That I did. I shook my head, imagining what a sinking feeling that look must have inspired.
“She asked why I would give her something so ornate when she had the likes of Fëanor bestowing her with fine jewelry in Aman - you know that her uncle had a queer fascination for her hair, one I never much cared for. Why would a Sindarin prince touch what the Noldor had perfected with his unpolished hand, she wondered – right to my face. I could not compete with the glory of the Master-smith himself, nor could I claim the talent of the Noldor, but I crossly said that I only thought of how the stones matched her eyes, and informed her that she could cast them back in the river if she did not care for them. I then turned and stalked away, my face flushing and my anger thankfully greater than my hurt.”
“What then?” I bid him continue, able to imagine the encounter clearly before my mind's eye.
“The next morning, I was embarrassed to see her again, but I would not let fear of her keep me away from the company of my kin. So, I came to break my fast, and saw Galadriel – Artanis, then - sitting by Lúthien, wearing a very familiar set of earrings. She did not once glance my way, nor did she ever compliment them directly, but later that week I found this awaiting me in my chambers.” Celeborn lifted his hand to show a ring on his smallest finger, one which I had always known him to wear. It was an elegant twine of silver, nesting a polished Sirion-stone, much like the one in my mother's earrings - so very Noldorin and Sindarin at once that I wondered over my not noticing it before.
“Every child of Finwë's house learned the art of forge-craft to some extent,” Celeborn went on to explain. “I asked her if a Fëanorian hand touched its creation, and she crossly informed me that she had crafted it herself. I returned that the design may have benefited from a more experienced hand – more to match her original words, rather than any true thought on my part – but it has yet to leave my hand since that day.”
He was smiling fondly, lost in memory as he twirled the ring upon his finger. “Your mother and I both had more . . . volatile personalities in those days. There was much pride between us, and we have since soothed each other like water over sharp stones. Yet, I doubt you will have to contend with such on Elrond's part. Whatever you think of will be deemed perfect in his eyes, rest assured. He, more so than most, knows the value in attachments between persons, rather than the fleeting richness of physical means. Yet, it is often so with those who have lost much, more than once. Believe me when I say that you are a rich gift; one he could want little more from than you yourself.”
I could not keep my joy from bubbling up to touch my mouth at his words. I was silent for a moment, listening to the bird-song and the melody of the falling water beyond.
“Then," I asked in a soft voice, "do you approve?”
Celeborn sighed, something both sad and fond creasing his face at once. “Perhaps I would have wished you to catch the eye of a simple baker, or some quiet poet. Your life would be safe, and easy in shape. Yet, you are my daughter, the same as you are your mother's daughter. Great are the names in your blood, and you too shall rise equal to their deeds of old – for good, and for ill, I foresee. I fear for those days as your father, but, also as your father, I feel pride for the woman you will meet those days as.”
His words had a telling burn building behind my eyes, and I blinked to clear my gaze as he opened an arm in welcome. I readily stepped into his embrace, feeling my fëa turn warm with contentment at the gesture.
“I love you too, Adar,” I whispered against his chest, and felt his arm tighten about my shoulders in reply.
“Even so, just because I like the boy does not mean that I am not going to be put out for some time,” Celeborn smiled against my hair. “It is my right as a father.”
“But of course,” I agreed on a small laugh, and he released me a moment later.
“Now,” Celeborn said, gesturing to my bow again. “You take this next round, and tell me what you have thought of so far. Perhaps, together, we can think of something appropriate.”
I agreed, and drew my next arrow, once again feeling contentment fill me as the day drew on around us.
Oh, I loved the treasures unearthed within the library and am quite taken with the prickly Erestor Warm heart under snark
Absolutely melted into sugary goo with the father/daughter talk and reminiscences. I can just bet Galadriel and Celeborn were full of cross words hiding a true and fervent fascination.
"My foolish heart" by Al Jarreau would be perfect fit for those two.
That earring set sounds like something I would wear, being an earring nut!
Superb update, again.
A really good conversation between father and daughter over how matters of the heart easily tops matters of wealth.
I enjoyed the reminiscence about Nothri; he's one of my favourites among your OCs. You conveyed the sense of old loss really well.
The background you gave Erestor is interesting, and his interaction/chemistry with both Glorfindel and Elrond was just so gratifying to read. "I was quite distracted by the view..." -- really, Elrond makes it all too easy for them to have a good laugh at his expense!
I love the contrasting textures in your portrayals of Galadriel and Celeborn's courtship, through his memories, on the one hand, and of Elrond and Celebrían's budding romance on the other, as we've seen at the beginning of this chapter, and the last. And how Celeborn's fondness and respect for Elrond is clear, and of course the father/daughter tenderness.
Eagerly awaiting the Mettarë celebrations. (I wonder if Imladris has some convenient mistletoe? )
Nyota's Heart: I thought you would enjoy that flashback! Those two! It was fun to juxtapose their courtship against Elrond and Celebrían's, though, that's for sure. And if you like earrings, you may just enjoy this next update too.
RX_Sith: Thank-you very much.
Cael-Fenton: Thank-you! I had to bring back Nothri, even in memory, and I am glad that you are enjoying the way everyone is interacting so far! This is just a great group of characters to work with, and every word has been fun to write. As always, I thank you so very much for reading.
I also have to leave a quick note to say that this story will be continuing on into next year. I have eight parts left according to my outline, and time did not go as I thought it would this fall. After that, we will see where we go from there. But, for now - here we are with more!
The morning of Yestarë dawned clear and cloudless in the sky, as if the day itself knew of the thanksgiving we held for the first day of spring below.
I had thought to know the valley in full activity before, but what I knew was nothing compared to the mingling of people and voices I was apart of now. From the forests of Rhudaur, many of the Men who had been away rebuilding returned to Imladris the day before – both for the holiday, and to meet the families that could now accompany them back to their new homes. There were new people to meet and more names to memorize, all while such a tangible sense of joy enveloped all those gathered around me.
Early in the day I was introduced to Barlor - who was the defacto leader of the Men of Eriador, few as they now remained - and his family. Barlor was a tall man, with a strong weight to his body that was at odds with the lithe elvish forms around him. His hair was dark and curling, shot through with locks of silver to match the deep lines creasing his face with age, and yet, such only seemed to add to the regalness of his appearance, rather than detract. He was thoughtful and measured in his speech, and I found myself liking him immensely after trading but a few words with him. The man called Abâril was Barlor's second in command – and, most curiously, a Númenorean by birth. He had been a trader from Rómenna, dealing his wears out of the port of Lond Daer. Yet, while sailing up and down the Gwathló river, he'd met a woman of the Middle-men – Glingaeril, Barlor's daughter - and married her, choosing to live with her people due to his having little kin of his own in the home he left behind. There was a strangely bright light in his eyes, almost like the gazes of the Edhil, and he attracted my curiosity from the first, and held it.
“There will be time for stories later,” Galadriel leaned over to whisper in my ear when she saw my gaze taking in the Man of the West. There was a fond amusement in her voice as she said so - for, sometimes, a surplus of years to live did not mean that I managed to do so patiently. And yet, Abâril seemed as curious about the goings on in the valley and the ways of the Elves as I did about him, so, perhaps, a trade could soon be made.
We had a late breakfast to coincide with the easy atmosphere of the holiday, but the Men held the majority of the conversation as they spoke of their plans and their progress in the forests beyond. There was the bond of comrades between these Men and the Elves of Imladris, one that lingered beyond the end of the war, and their speaking in generalities soon turned to plans for transporting the remaining Men in the valley to their new homes in Rhudaur. While Glorfindel's warriors had been doing much to clear the mountain ways of any straggling Orcs and other foul creatures, the crags were vast, and such precautions were more than prudent to make. Barlor and Elrond spoke with thoughtful voices, even as the breakfast dishes were pushed aside for the maps Erestor thoughtfully brought out as the talks went on. I sat back and observed, watching as Glorfindel was frequently sought out for his advice - the bright, easy demeanor I knew of him pushed aside for the sharp, tactical mind of a commander and mover of men at arms. His was a warrior's mind in all things, and his wisdoms had the added benefit of both his many years and his Valar-given spark of otherness, ever hovering about his being.
I listened without offering much input, content to simply absorb their words and learn what I could from them in turn. Together, they came up with a sensible plan and the necessary precautions, their conversation lingering well into the afternoon - when all then turned to ready themselves for the feast of Yestarë that evening.
As I walked back to our rooms, I found my mind straying from thoughts of the Men to a more familiar, and still just as pressing, debate. While I was no longer raking my mind in frustration, I was still not content with any idea I had settled on. Instead, the problem was one my mind constantly twisted over and puzzled to solve.
Yet, it was not until I was going through my trunk for the gowns I had brought from Lórinand that an idea hit me. The idea sparked, as clear as storm-light, before settling in my bones with the rightness of it. Of course. Why had I not thought of that earlier?
I picked up the item from its protected bed of cloth, turning it over in my hands and running my fingers over the dips and curves decorating its surface. I felt a fluttering sensation fill my stomach, eager as I now was for the feast to come.
That mountainous task finally settled, I turned to the nearly as daunting endeavor of trying to decide what to wear. For the most part, I had worn long tunics and leggings since reaching Imladris, which were fetching enough when doubled with the more ornate jackets and vests I had, and yet, this evening . . . I finally settled on a gown of pale blue and silver-grey, cut in a Sindarin style with its graceful sleeves and gentle falls of fabric. Where Noldorin styles were about bold colour and rich, elegant designs, the details on this gown were soft and subtle, made to resemble nature with its motifs of flowers and vines subtly woven through the top layers of nearly sheer fabric. It fit the idea of Yestarë, I could not help but think, with its celebrations of beginnings and all things new. In a blushing moment, I wondered if he would look on me and think the same, before pushing that thought aside.
I took more than the usual time with braiding my hair, biting my lip and staring at the looking glass to search for anything I may have missed before flushing and turning away from the mirror. That had taken twice as long as it normally would have, and, in the end, my resulting appearance was much the same.
My parents were ready to depart long before I was, and they looked at me with bemused smiles when I finally emerged from my room – even though my father raised a brow and pretended to look affronted, they both knowing exactly what had kept me longer than usual.
I simply stared in reply, all but daring any words they could think to give. Yet, they were silent as we made our way to where the residents of the valley were already gathering in a beautiful clearing, set on a shelf between two tiers of waterfalls. Even the laughing dance of the river seemed to rise to match the voices set in joy, playing a counterpoint to the minstrels as they spun songs fit for dancing.
For a long time, I did not see Elrond, though I would not admit to searching for him if asked. Yet, I also did not see the leaders of the Men who had just returned to the valley, and I assumed that their being missing was no coincidence. Erestor arrived halfway through the festivities, and surprised me by asking for my hand during one of the more moderate reels – to which I obliged, and enjoyed having the Steward for a partner as he gave his wry commentary on the goings on in the clearing. When the reel turned livelier, Glorfindel traded places with Erestor as my partner, and I found myself laughing with him more than I had since the war for Eregion began. My amusement only continued when Glorfindel turned from me to my mother with the next dance, his easy charm drawing a well meaning scowl from Celeborn as they traded their words back and forth over the honor of leading Galadriel in the dance – an argument my mother solved by pointedly winding her arm through Erestor's as her chosen partner for the reel, and dragging him away. Not to be deterred, Glorfindel simply bowed to my father and asked him to dance – for which Celeborn's look was withering in reply.
Halfway through the dance, a youth - no more than fifteen summers old, whom I recognized as Barlor's youngest son – came and asked me for the next dance. His face was flushing adorably as he spoke, and while his words were stuttered, he boldly held my eyes with his own. I was aware of a small group of young men watching us from just beyond – perhaps, they had given their comrade the courage to approach me in the first place – and so, I curtsied and gravely accepted his offer with the same grace I would offer to a lord of Gil-galad's court. I could not say no to him, not when there was such an eager light in his eyes – and I knew curiosity for such a light being there at all, with he having known his formative years in such a violent time of war and devastation. Yet, that wonderment was one I bore for the hardiness of Men as a whole, and that wonder only seemed to grow with the more I learned about them and their ways.
At the end of the dance, he undid the leather bracelet he wore about his wrist and offered it as his gift for Yestarë. Touched by the token – for his people had left everything behind when Sauron razed through their lands, leaving them with little to give – I accepted it, and allowed him to help me tie it about my own wrist. I had nothing to gift in return, but when I leaned down to kiss his brow that seemed to be more than enough. Just beyond us, his friends gave a whooping cheer in reply, and he walked back to them grinning and flushing in equal measure.
After the moment passed, I looked and felt my spirits fall when I saw that he was still missing from the festivities. However, the joy of the day was still tangible, and I did not want to lose the warm peace I too knew for the holiday – so I allowed Glorfindel to dance with me again, and resolved to think no more on my missing until later.
The days were just starting to lengthen, and the sun still set relatively early in the evening. As Anor surrendered her place in the sky to her companion, I turned from the festivities underneath the guise of fetching my cloak - for there was a chill in the air that accompanied the onset of night, but really, I wanted to retrieve the gift I had finally decided on earlier. I found myself curiously nervous as I did so; my palms clammy and my pulse skipping in my chest with my every step. The gift was heavy and awkward, so I placed it in a satchel, and was careful to hide my burden underneath my cloak as I turned to leave. As I passed the threshold, I drew in a deep breath to fortify myself – as if for a battle, I thought with some bemusement – before heading back again.
I was slow in returning to the feast, choosing to take a longer path through the newly budding gardens and then keeping to a higher walkway that kept parallel with one of the rushing streams of water as it hurried on to its inevitable fall. The last moments of the sunset were upon us, and the dancing couples in the clearing below seemed to catch the last light and reflect it like flames upon wicks. I looked, and though I saw that Barlor and Abâril had finally joined the festivities, I did not see . . .
I did not see, but I could feel a now telling ripple against my spirit. I took a moment to let the sensation wash over me, like the tide rushing over the seashore, before turning to find -
“I was hoping to find you,” Elrond's eyes were bright in the fading light, leaving me to wonder if he could feel me the same way I was growing ever increasingly aware of him. I liked to think so, and I did not think my insights wrong as I watched the way he subtly shifted his weight from foot to foot. He seemed to hold himself the slightest bit guardedly in my presence, as if he knew apprehension – however sweet an apprehension it may have been. It was a feeling that I seemed to share in full.
Inhaling, I took a moment to let my eyes rake appreciatively over his form, having only known him in a soldier's mantle, or in simple garb more suited to building and wild terrain, before this night. He was dressed in an Elf-lord's finery now, in robes of rich brocade, done in varying shades of deep burgundy; pleasantly highlighting the darkness of his hair and the paleness of his skin. Shades of warm taupe hung from his shoulders and flashed from the bottommost layers of his garb when he walked, complimenting the grey in his eyes quite nicely. His hair was ornately braided that night, and a circlet of dark silver rested upon his brow, more twisting and complex than the simple bands I was used to seeing him wear. I was aware that I was staring, and yet, my eyes were slow to yield to the command of my mind, content as they were to simply gawk quite happily at him.
At least, I noticed with no small amount of pride, he seemed to have as difficult a time in convincing his eyes to stray away from me. I tilted my head, and when my smile took on a note of knowing, his eyes snapped back to mine as if forced to do so.
“There was business with the Men to attend to; words that Barlor did not wish to share with the others before he had to,” Elrond explained, a note of something troubled clinging to his voice before he pushed his thoughts aside with an obvious effort. I wanted to ask questions, but settled myself for waiting to do so – really, I reflected, it warmed me that he felt the need to explain his absence at all.
“However,” he continued, “I wanted to give these to you before the light of Yestarë completely fell. It seems that we now have but moments of it left.” With saying so, he glanced at the sky above with a wry expression.
Curious, I watched as he handed me a small box, easily concealed in the long sleeves of his robes beforehand. “I did not expect a gift,” I replied honestly.
“Neither did I,” he responded in kind. I wondered if I had shown my hand, but he had not yet espied what was hidden in the folds of my cloak. Instead, his eyes were glittering as they rested upon me, and I flushed as I discerned his meaning. My fëa seemed to be very close to the surface of my skin in reply to his words . . . very close, as if it were trying to reach out and absorb the blue might of his spirit, the way one flame would devour another.
I swallowed, and instead looked down at the box he'd handed to me, unable to hold the warmth in his gaze for much longer. To my credit, my fingers were steady as I thumbed the clasp open to reveal a pair of earrings, brightly glowing in the half-light from their bed of blue velvet. I pulled one earring away to more closely observe the trinket, seeing the elegant tiers of silver, and a collection of strange, blue-white stones set within the tiny facets. I had not seen a stone like this before, but they were beautiful, seemingly capturing the moonlight as Fëanor's Silmarils held the light of the Two Trees in the Elder Days.
“When first exploring the valley, we found caverns full of these crystals in the higher passes,” Elrond explained. “Some of the caves seemed to be made of nothing else, even. Many of Celebrimbor's smiths have been experimenting with the properties of the stone, and this was my endeavor with their arts.”
“You are a craftsman, too?” I could not help but tease, even as I lifted the second earring with a gentle hand. I delicately went about fastening the first one to my ear, imagining how the stones looked as they reflected the light from the oncoming night above.
“I could hardly call myself that,” Elrond seemed all too amused to reply. “This is simply the unavoidable result of spending one's formative years with the Fëanorians. Beyond this, I cannot claim a further skill with such arts. My talents lie elsewhere.”
“I think that you are being humble,” I returned, meaning my every word. “For these are beautiful; truly they are.”
“I had . . . inspiration for the gift,” Elrond replied simply, and I tucked away a pleased smile for knowing that I wasn't the only one my father had been sharing stories with. For a moment, I wondered what else their words had included, before successfully donning the second earring and pushing my thoughts aside.
“How do they look?” I asked, tilting my head for his inspection. Though I could not see them, I knew that they complimented my silver hair and the blue in my gaze for the way his eyes settled on me. A pulse of heat seemed to thrum across my bones in reply to his stare, setting my skin alight before coming to rest somewhere deep within me. The onset of night had turned the pale grey of his eyes to something darker, near to molten silver, and I inhaled a suddenly shaky breath when he reached over to lightly touch the earring now dangling from my right ear. More so than any purposeful caress, I could acutely feel where his hand just barely disturbed the fall of my hair. The skin of my cheek seemed to burn with him being so close to me, even when he did nothing more than to touch the gem in its casing before drawing his hand back again.
I exhaled, and felt strangely bereft as he took a respectable step back from me – cheated, even. Yet, when he answered my original question with a soft, “lovely,” I knew that I was not the only one so affected when I heard the deep tremor to his voice. The warm, low sound seemed to wash over me as something tangible, and my spirit once more picked up in awareness, pushing dizzyingly close to the surface of my skin.
I took another step back from him, feeling the cool night air fill the space between our bodies with a much needed relief. Swallowing, I then remembered my own gift – which cut through the sudden tension binding us quite effectively.
“And I have this in return,” I said, reaching underneath my cloak for the satchel I had hidden there. I pulled out my gift, finding myself suddenly shy when compared to the anticipation I had first known when deciding what to offer for Yestarë.
I did not bother wrapping the gift in little more than a brightly colored swath of fabric, and he pulled that back to reveal a book – large and heavy, the leather of its cover exquisitely tooled and inlaid with gold to boast of the true treasures it bore within. As always, seeing the tome brought a bittersweet joy to my spirit, and I felt a rightness for placing the book where it would be most appreciated fill me now.
“For the library,” I offered, finding my voice strangely timid to my use. I swallowed, and tried again. “Perhaps, you could find a place for it beside Telchar's words?”
Elrond was silent for a moment, but I could see the respect growing in his eyes – the reverence. He understood the great value of what he held, and in that moment, I knew without a doubt that I had made the right choice.
“This is the culmination of Nothri Stonehand's life's work,” I explained, a rush of pride and fondness filling my voice. “Here you have the complete history of the Folk of Durin; an accounting of their legends; tales of their trials and triumphs – most of which are known to the Dwarves only through word of mouth. While much is preserved through the generations in this way, much can easily be lost, as well. As such, everything he could think to record, Nothri did so here here, trusting that I would remember for him . . . that I would keep the great lore of his people safe.”
“This is a great gift,” a moment passed before Elrond could bring himself to speak. He looked down, clearly hesitant to take the book from me. “Are you sure that you wish to part from this?”
At first, I wanted to say that I did not feel as if I was parting from it, so much as I was offering it to the place that was feeling more and more like home to me. And yet, I paused. I gathered myself, trying to decide just how to phrase my words.
“My first impression upon reaching Imladris was peace . . . sanctuary, even,” my words came out quickly, erring on the side of gushing, but I could not help their shape as I uttered them. “Not only is such a thing true for the Elves, but for the Men here, too. Someday,” I could feel a glimmer of my mother's foresight creep into my voice, turning it heavy with knowing, “this will be a homely house for people of all races and places. Elves . . . Men . . . Dwarves . . .” here my brow furrowed, struggling as I tried to glimpse something just beyond my reach, “and something else . . . someone else . . . a race that I cannot quite see.” I paused for the sensation of warm, hearty peace that came with planted fields and hearth-fires, trusting true understanding to come only with the passing of the years. “All will find a sense of belonging here . . . and, someday, when others of this world forget crucial parts of their heritage, we will remember for them . . . and this will be but one of many treasures to assist in that remembering.”
When I finished speaking, Elrond's eyes were very soft . . . very bright. Where earlier, the strange sort of cord binding us had felt charged, as with storm-light, I only felt such a peace now . . . such a warmth. It was one that I was growing all the more greedy for, unsure as I now was of how I would ever be able to turn it away. I marveled over the feeling, wondering how only a week could have been time enough for him to have settled so irrevocably in my spirit.
“Half of this I cannot read,” this Elrond said with a soft, wry smile as he carefully looked through the pages.
“Then, I shall have to teach you,” I knew that my eyes glittered as I gave my reply.
“And,” he reflected next, a warm sort of amusement colouring his voice in answer to my words, “some of these pages appear to be blank. A curious thing, with the time and effort that clearly went into the making of this book.”
“Ah,” for that, a note of mischievousness entered my voice. “That is simply one of the more peculiar tricks of the Dwarves – enjoying as they do such games of hide-and-seek.” I glanced up, and saw that the light of Ithil was growing to be enough to see by, but just barely. Colours of red and the darkest of violets still stained the furthest corners of the skyline, slow as Anor was to relinquish her hold on the day.
“Here,” I reached over to tilt up the book, stepping closer to him in order to do so. As he had earlier, I was careful not to touch him, but I knew that he could feel the heat of my body from the barest of spaces that separated us. A part of me felt a thrill for the way he held himself very still in reply – filling me with a sweet sort of vengeful satisfaction for his earlier actions, even while knowing that I played with a flame that burned two ways.
On an impulse, I rested my hand on his arm as I tilted the pages up. I felt the skin beneath my fingertips leap at the casual touch, but he did not move away from me as I searched to find . . . there.
I was amused when he was a heartbeat slow to see what the moonlight illuminated. “There are runes on the page,” he sounded surprised to see – for, sometimes, few were the things that could move us to wonderment and curiosity with the long span of our days.
“Ithildin,” I explained, delighted by the intrigued light that filled his eyes. The writing was very faint, and I tilted the pages again, trying to illuminate them more fully. “Usually, the dwarves use crystals to intensify the moonlight – and, some runes can only be seen during specific phases of the moon, or when certain words of power are spoken. However, Nothri wanted these to be more easily accessible to any who came upon them – as accessible as moon-runes are, that is.”
“Most curious,” Elrond muttered as he studied the pages. I was thrilled to see the wondering look to his features, a sense of delighted pleasure filling me for my being able to give him something novel and unique to his eyes.
“If you think that is curious,” I said wryly, “you should see how they hide their doors. Sometimes, it is a wonder their people are able to do anything for the sneakery and subterfuge in which they can operate.” For that trait of his kin, even Nothri had grumbled, even as he delighted in new ways to fool the senses and turn the mind with riddles and words-within-words. Such active, impulsive imaginations had to be a trait of Aulë himself, I could not help but think with fondness.
The night was darkening, and the runes swam sluggishly into view. I narrowed my eyes as the words struggled to brighten. “The talain in Lórinand the star-searchers used allowed me to manipulate the moonlight quite easily, but I am afraid that I do not have any crystal here to help you read.”
Something in Elrond's eyes lightened, and he tilted his head thoughtfully. “I believe that I may have something to fill that need. There are entire caverns of crystal in the high passes, as I mentioned before,” he glanced at the earrings I still wore, before looking up to the lip of the valley. I already knew of several tunnels and paths that connected the buildings of Imladris to the high places, though I had yet to explore but a fraction of them myself.
“Are they accessible now?” I asked.
He raised a brow, looking down on the merry-making still carrying on below. “Accessible enough,” he answered. “If you wish to go?”
I smiled, looking up at the moon again. “Ithil's light is full tonight,” I decided. “We should make use of his gift.”
“As the lady wishes, I am hers to command.” Elrond offered me his arm, and I gladly took it, sharing his stride as we turned away from the feast below. Even so, the songs of Yestarë followed us, filling the air with a lulling sound of melody and voices, thanking the new year as it came once more upon us.
I glanced up at him as we walked, once again feeling that sweet, contented sensation filling my spirit with peace and warmth. To new beginnings, indeed, I thought, and turned my eyes to the path ahead.
Gloriously appropriate gifts and I love their continuing affinity and growing sense of awareness and reciprocal pull. I loved Celebrian's glimpse of the future and the haven Imladris would become.
caught up on reading after my trip to Hobbiton, Imladris and Mordor
Nyota's Heart: : That line is one of the first ones I had wrote when I was working on my outline, so I am glad that you enjoyed that! These last few chapters have just been a joy to write, even more so than most.
earlybird-obi-wan: Ooooh, I can imagine!! I am both jealous and wondrously happy for you all at once - what a sight that must have been!
This chapter was originally supposed to be two updates, but the 'flow' was off when I split them up, so together they now remain. The only thing I have to say for this update: pay attention to Abâril's thoughts, too, for a sequel to this story is probably going to cover the very early days of the Fall of Númenor, and the birth of a certain Captain of the Ring-wraiths from amongst the Lords of that land - which is looking to be a fun project, because Tolkien literally left us only a few jotted notes about that time-period, and the rest is free for me to play with.
But, for now . . . enjoy!
A sennight passed before the Men were ready to move to their new homes in Rhudaur.
I was glad for the earlier invitation to be amongst the party escorting the Men, dear as the Men - and those who would be travelling with them - had become to me during my time spent in the valley. In the days before their departure, I spent a good deal of my time helping Baralin pack what she needed from the herb-rooms, listening as she spoke of her previous home in the Angle of Rhudaur – where the Mitheithel and Bruinen rivers met and formed a large triangle of forested land to the south of Imladris, not far from Ost-in-edhil. That land had been beautiful and prosperous before Sauron's scourge, where little was now left to grow. Many would be the generations before her people could return to the south of the forests, and I felt a matching sorrow as I remembered the miles and miles of desolation I had seen from high in the mountain ways. There was a scar upon Eriador; one that would be long in healing, even though, someday, heal it would.
Yet, the Men did not have my luxury of such time, and they now meant to settle in the north of the forest, determined as they were to carve out their homes where Sauron's fires had not reached. There, they would be far enough into the wooded lands to maintain their own ways, but close enough to Imladris to dwell hand in hand with the Elves. Our route would take us south of the Trollshaws, all the way to the Mitheithel river, off of the Great Road that continued on to Lindon on the western shore – thus comfortably nestling the Men in next to the trade-routes that were just now being redrawn over Eriador in the wake of Sauron's defeat.
It was a sunny day when we departed from the valley, with the skies blue and cloudless overhead. There were smiles and cheerful voices everywhere I looked as families were gathered and the wagons were checked one last time. Tallies were taken and heads were counted as the Men assembled in a truly impressive train of peoples and goods. Many of the men rode on sturdy steeds, while the women and children mostly rode inside the carts and wagons. Those who did not trailed to herd the few heads of livestock they had saved, with sheep-dogs and hunting-hounds barking at their heels in playful delight. Escorting the train were a few dozen elven warriors on horseback, their blue and gold armor gleaming, with the crest of Gil-galad glittering from their polished chest-plates and streaming from their banners. With such a vulnerable amount of Men moving through the foothills such precautions were prudent, and when I looked to the head of the train I did not see Glorfindel smiling and laughing along with the beauty of the day. Instead, he already turned his gaze to search the peaks nearest to us, his eyes sharp and his fëa worn very bright against the surface of his skin, already wary for any foe we would face on the road to come.
Even so, I watched as Erestor fussed over the bells Glorfindel had fixed to his stallion's bridle, dryly commenting on the wisdom in attaching such a noisy decoration to his mount. The Steward poked through the other man's saddlebags as he fussed - to critique, it would first appear, but I watched where he instead looked for anything that could be missing, and that understanding brought a smile to Glorfindel's unusually solemn face as well as my own.
I took that moment to say my farewells to my parents, letting Celeborn embrace me and Galadriel kiss my brow before swinging up into the saddle of my own horse. The dappled grey mare nickered in greeting, prancing in place as she tossed her head in eager anticipation to be off again. It was a restlessness I wholly sympathized with when the warm sunlight illuminated the road so enticingly before us, beckoning us to be off.
Next to me, there was a dark bay courser being held still by his groom, waiting for where Elrond was going through one last headcount with Barlor and Abâril. Once they were satisfied with their numbers, Erestor turned from Glorfindel in order to address his lord.
“Careful, else-wise the Lady will have fully usurped leadership of the valley during your absence,” Erestor dryly counseled as he fell in to stand beside my parents.
“I will not apologize for those who are drawn to follow my counsel out of wisdom and good taste,” Galadriel replied archly, humor nonetheless glittering in her eyes. “I usurp nothing.”
“And anything the Lady cares to change or implement during my absence, I am sure will be to the great benefit of all,” Elrond returned smoothly, taking the reins from the groom once he was comfortably settled in the saddle.
For his saying so, Galadriel and Erestor looked at each other, both unblinking, and I watched where Celeborn tucked away a grin in reply to their silent contest of wills. I almost wished that I would be there to observe their interactions as they watched over the valley, and yet, a horn was then blown to start the train of wagons moving, and I found my thoughts turning to the road as we said our last farewells and at last set off.
It was a long process to move the wagons over the ford of the river. The Bruinen was swollen with snow melt, draining down from high in the Misty Mountains, and while the water was not impassible, the river was at the highest point we would wish to attempt such a crossing. Yet, there were steady hands guiding the horses and oxen, and sharp eyes on the ruts and currents of the riverbed had all safely navigating the ford. By the high time of morning, we were all moving down the narrow road that led out of the valley, and on our way.
We would still be high in the foothills of the mountains for some time, and great pains had gone into clearing a suitable road for wagons and a large number of men. The road led us safely over the highs and lows of the landscape, with ravines and dells seemingly everywhere we looked on either side of the pathway. Here, the majority of the wood was fir trees; their straight trunks growing thin and tall in their effort to seemingly pierce the sky above. Next to the fir grew hemlock and cedar, the first just as straight and tall, while the latter grew in gracefully bending arcs, their smell fragrant and spicy in the damp air left by the spring rains. The further west we went, the trees would turn to beech and maple where the forest was still young in shape, but we had a towering canopy above us for the time being, with a forest floor made soft by lichen and many years of pine needles falling to coat the ground beneath our feet. The bright sun pierced the wood in streaming rays of light, the beams fragmenting in dancing prisms where they were pierced by hundreds of branches and trunks, forming a lovely backdrop for our path.
As we journeyed, the Men took to singing a walking song – one I did not know, but whose chorus was easy enough to pick up on, and our party was a merry one as we cut through the land. This close to the valley, the men were not hushed from their song, and even Glorfindel hummed along as he sent his scouts too and fro in the woods.
Later that afternoon we stopped our party where a tributary stream from the Bruinen river flowed into a large forest pool. Here we watered the animals, and the Men took out their rations to tide their stomachs over until we stopped for the night. When there was nothing more I could do to assist those around me, I took my own rest on one of the massive rocks overlooking the pool, angling my body so that I could watch where Glorfindel and Elrond spoke in low voices, keeping a careful eye on those gathering around them. There was a small trickle of water feeding the pool, flowing down the dark grey wall of the gorge that formed the stream, and I closed my eyes to the sound of the water, truly content as a shadow fell to join mine.
“There is nothing that compares to the sound of the water, is there not, my lady?”
I looked up, and saw where Abâril stood just next to me. He was tall for a Man, near to the height of an Elf, though the strong mass of his body was tellingly more so than the lithe builds of the Firstborn. Though his face was shaven but for around his mouth and over his chin, a day's scruff dusted his cheekbones in a becoming way. His long, dark brown hair was bound away in a simple queue, and his bright grey eyes were full with the song of the stream.
“As a son of Númenor, you must believe that more so than most,” I answered in greeting, moving over to allow him a place to sit. I looked behind him, and found where his wife was aiding their young daughter in passing out bread and cheese to the men herding the livestock, and scooted over to make more room for when they were done.
“The water has blessed me with everything I hold dear,” Abâril agreed, his eyes finding his family as he said so. “Perhaps it has for me, more so than most. I can hear the Greyflood in this stream, even though her banks are far from here. In her there is ever an echo of the sea, and the home I left there.”
“I have never seen the Sea,” I admitted, “though I can feel the draw of the tides deep within me. It is a distant sound to my thoughts; though, someday, I am told that it shall be all I can hear when I am at last ready to leave these shores.”
“Perhaps, in that way alone, Elves and Men are more kindred than many would first think,” Abâril smiled to say.
“In the case of the Dúnedain, more so than most,” I agreed, discreetly trying to puzzle over the riddle of him. There was something more about the Men of the West, something that shone as starlight on the water to my senses. Blessed were these Men in Elder Days, and almost disquieting was the power they held inside of them now. When used for learning and lore, such strength would have a great use, and yet . . . I swallowed away a flicker of disquiet, thinking about their desecration of the lands surrounding Lond Daer for nothing more than mortal greed, and their arrogant way of providing assistance in our battle against Sauron – even if it was assistance they still provided. Elrond had not spoken much about Númenor's aid, but what he did say hinted at a frustration on Gil-galad's part as he used every diplomatic weapon in his arsenal to prevent from starting a conflict with the Queen's nephew and the Admiral when it was quite a greater conflict they sought to settle through their alliance.
I tried not to frown in reply to my thoughts, for I sensed none of that greed and want in Abâril. Rather, he had humbled himself in the eyes of his countrymen to live as one lesser amongst the Edian of Middle-earth. Which made me wonder . . .
“And how does a Man of the West find himself amongst the forests of Ennor?” I found my thoughts making their way to my tongue. “I must confess that you have been a curiosity to me.”
“A simple Man, a source of fascination to a Lady of the Elves?” Abâril seemed amused with the idea. “I am no such great source of wonder – simply a poor trader who washed ashore here and found no reason to leave. My great-grandfather's great-grandfather was once a Captain of some daring, sailing with Tar-Aldarion himself in the halcyon days of our people. He won much wealth and renown in his voyages, and was even married to a minor princess of the House of Elros as a reward for his deeds – Ariel, the youngest daughter of Princess Ailinel, sister of Aldarion.”
I smiled to hear him say so, recognizing the name of the Mariner – the greatest of Númenor's kings since Elros himself, if only in some ways. “My mother met Tar-Aldarion once, on the shores of the Gwathló river. She gave him wisdom and counsel for his journeys, and they shared bread together. That was long ago, though - before my own birth, even.”
“That story is still told in Númenor in reverent whispers,” Abâril was happy to inform me. “Or, at least . . . it was once told as such.” He held his jaw tightly, before carrying on with lighter words. “Aldarion first thought that he was blessed with a visit from Elbereth herself for the glory of the Golden Lady, only, she would not allow such a name put as her own. Such humility is more than that of some of our lowest lords - this Aldarion had been all too delighted to point out to his court.” He grinned a cheeky grin with his saying so.
No, I thought, Galadriel would not wish to be called by Varda's title, no matter the compliment intended by doing so. And yet, there was power and grace enough to be found in her own name.
“And then?” I asked him to continue. “What became of your grandfather's grandfather?”
Abadil was silent for a long moment, before continuing: “For many generations my family kept to the seas and upheld the honor of our name, but my grandfather made poor investments in his day, and my father further compounded those issues of poor finances with a taste for drink and poor luck at cards. It was to me to put the honor back to my house by settling its debts – for which I sailed a route from Lond Daer to Rómenna with loads of lumber for the ship-yards. However, when sailing up the Greyflood, I met my bride-to-be from amongst the people dwelling within the Angle of Rhuduar, and her love for the forests aligned with that which was already a disquiet thought within me. I sold my ships and lands in Númenor to settle my family's debts – thus leaving my name to fade out in honor – and chose to make my home with that which I loved here.”
He looked from the water to find my gaze, and his bright eyes glittered. “Even you wondered what appeal the rustic ways of this land could have to me when compared to the glory of the Land of the Gift,” this he stated, rather than asking. “But I would say that it has every appeal to me over that which I left behind.”
As Abâril said so, his wife and daughter had finished with their task, and came over to sit with us. He ruffled the little girl's dark hair and kissed the back of Glingaeril's hand in greeting. The light in his eyes was even brighter then, and I felt a warmth settle in me for watching them. Yes, I thought, I could well understand his choice.
“And,” he continued, “Middle-earth has other wonders to offer. The forests here are unmatched, even though the woods of Andustar in Númenor hold a blessed beauty of their own; and there is a further curiosity to be found for living so closely with elven-kind – especially with those who figure in so many of our stories.” For that, he glanced at Elrond, and I wondered then over the strange twist of fate that cast them as kin from afar, no matter how separate their kinds were.
For Abâril saying so, his wife smiled softly in agreement. “As terrible and regal as kings, and yet as joyous as children are the Elves – normally, both traits existing side by side in the same being.” Glingaeril gestured to Glorfindel to perfectly illustrate her words, before shaking her head. “They are a strange kind, your people.”
“As strange as yours, I would say,” I returned. “Even so, I do believe that the ways of Imladris will be quite dimmed for your leaving.”
“Imladris is a beautiful place in which to dwell,” Abâril agreed with me. “Yet, time is treacherous in the valley. It is hard to tell days from weeks; months from years. A man can blink and have years of his life pass away, for time simply is in any elven-home I have ever known.”
“I have never thought of it as such,” I admitted. Time simply was for me – much as Abâril described - with the years passing as easily as the night into morning. To think of it as passing either quickly or slowly was a foreign thought to me, one I only ever considered for the way it exacted its toll on my mortal friends – or while I passed years in separation from others I held dear. And yet, for mankind . . .
“You are elven-kind,” Abâril returned with a glittering to his eyes, his thoughts aligning closely with my own. “As such, you have no need to think on such things. Mankind, however . . .” for a moment, he was silent, clearly weighing his words before saying: “Men are a peculiar race, my lady. Some can give up everything for love, for the simple joys of hearth and home, while others can covet and hold jealousies over that which is beyond our reach by decree of the One himself. In the years to come, even when I am no longer alive to give such utterances . . . remember my saying so, and take what wisdom from my words you may.”
I felt a disquiet note flutter through me as his warnings aligned all too closely with my own whispers of foreboding – my own whispers of foresight, I hated to think – and yet, my asking him anything further was interrupted by the blowing of the horn, signaling our departure.
For three days we traveled without incident. Most of the journey passed slowly over the uneven terrain, and I grew restless in my seat, curious for the ways I could see stretching beyond the road. More than once I rode ahead with Glorfindel when he too wished for more than the slow pace of the wagons, and I was allowed to see the land in its rolling and wild glory. When riding with the train, I found myself side by side with Elrond more often than not, especially when Abâril and Barlor were taken by their own families and cares. The slow pace meant that we had much time to talk, and even when the wagon-train separated us, I bore an ever growing sense of awareness for his presence, knowing when he was near and feeling him as a soft warmth against my thoughts when he was far. It was a pleasant sensation, one that I was quickly growing accustomed to – to expect and need, even – as a source of ease and comfort for my spirit.
Our fourth day of travel greeted us with heavy rains, and we moved but little on the trail as the sky opened up and poured down on the world below. On the morning of the fifth day, scouts revealed where parts of the stream flooded over the forest path ahead, creating areas of silt and shifting sediment that would be impossible for the wagons to pass through until it dried. We could either wait for the roads to dry, or push further north on a lesser used trail – this being a rockier path, and some miles out of our way, but dry and nonetheless passable. There was a long, uncomfortable debate over this course of action - for there had been many times that the Men were attacked while foresting and building on the northern trails, and not only by the Orcs making their way down from the mountains, but by beasts more fearsome than that, and more difficult to defeat.
Yet, there was no guarantee that the spring would not bring more rain down upon us, thus worsening the roads - and wet conditions when combined with the chilly nights were no way to travel, especially for the little ones in the group. So, with some foreboding, we decided to take the northern path, angling our route further up into the Trollshaws. Here, the land was full of dips and ravines, and highlighted by great formations of red rock twining with the hills and trees. Some miles to the north, the forests would give way to the barren and empty ways of the fells – where the lonely land held breathtaking views of the looming Misty Mountains as they curved alongside the Ettenmoors in the northern-most peaks of their range.
We passed a day without incident, and while we did not lose our alertness, we no longer traveled as if holding a breath. Glorfindel rode ahead of the train more often than not, wearing his fëa as a golden light, softly shimmering from his body. In the shadows of the forest his mere presence warned away many of the lesser evils that survived our cleansing of the land. While not the literal beacon in the dark the other man was, Elrond's eyes too were set carefully ahead, and I could feel the great cast of his spirit as he subtly projected it to the shadowed places we passed. It would take a foolish creature indeed to provoke two Elf-lords, I thought, and that knowledge was a comfort of its own as we went deeper and deeper into an unfriendly land.
The evening was almost upon us when the path took us down a dip in the land. There were steep rock walls on either side of us, with roots growing down over the outcropping to seek out the shallow stream on the floor of the gorge – a seasonal waterway, running from the melt of the snow, higher in the mountains. The water rushed over the stones and soft soil, making the path tricky when combined with the narrow bottom of the gorge. The mouth of the ravine was steep, and the animals pulling the wagons had to be coaxed up, with the backs of the carts supported to prevent them from sliding back down and taking the beasts with them. The task was arduous, and each passing wheel rut only made the mud deeper and all the more difficult to pass through. Yet, by the time the sun was starting to sink in the sky, we were readying to coax the last two wagons up the path – just in time for the onset of night.
Rather than aiding with the wagons, Glorfindel had left the front of the train to Barlor and Abâril, and he now stood at the bottom of the slope, looking to the crest of the gorge with narrowed eyes. His hand was on the hilt of his sword, and his mouth was set into a thin line as he searched the shadows.
“We have tarried too long,” he turned to say in terse Sindarin to Elrond, who was lending a hand to the group of burly men and elven soldiers who were helping the wagons out of the gorge.
Elrond's brow narrowed with a matching suspicion, before he returned in a low voice, “Do you sense what I -”
- only to have his words interrupted by a terrible noise accompanying the onset of night.
I watched as one large shadow dropped down into the gorge . . . and another . . . and another, until a dozen of the bloated shapes were making their way towards us - with more of the large shadows waiting on the lip of the gorge up above. They made bellowing noises in a clear threat, beating their massive fists against the ground, while the few that had clubs or maces waved them as well.
“Trolls,” Elrond finished his own thought. “Lovely.”
Glorfindel did not bother responding, instead whistling for his warriors to back away from the wagons and join him in facing this new threat – they being the reason we had been reluctant to stray too far north in the first place.
The trolls did not speak but for their nonsense cries, though I knew that they were capable of speech - even if Morgoth did not create them to be as intelligent of some of his other servants. Instead of sentient thought, there was a crazed hunger to their eyes – no doubt from both the hard winter and their own fractured minds following the end of the war. If Sauron spent so long controlling these creatures with the One Ring, caring not for how he tore through their thoughts in order to incite their obedience . . . it was a feral and mindless creature we now faced in the broken minds he left behind. There was a dangerous strength to be found in such a foe – who had no caution, even for its preservation of self, as it adhered to the simple demands of nature that required food and sustenance.
Further compounding our task was the unfortunate truth: trolls were quite simply hard to kill, and arrows had little effect outside of jutting out grotesquely from the leathery hide of the creatures they sought to slay. With the sun only just setting, we did not even have aid of the dawn, and they had all night to make use of the shadow covering Anor's light . . .
Yet, I knew better than to help with the trolls as Glorfindel's men charged forward to cover our retreat. My sword-arm was nothing when compared to those behind me, and the best aid I could give would be in seeing to those they aimed to protect. Ignoring the sounds of the battle behind me – and, more difficultly, ignoring the bright cast of the fëar behind me; Glorfindel's light ever inspiring others, and the tug of Elrond's soul a more personal call to me, demanding that I act, that I stand side by side and protect – I moved to where the driver of the wagon was doing his best to coax the frightened draft horse up and over the lip of the ravine.
The first thing I could see were the whites of the horse's eyes as the terrified animal threw his head back and forth, trying to see what was going on behind him. Horses were a preferred meal for trolls, and there was an instinctive fear mingling with the sick taint of the Shadow that accompanied the unnatural creatures behind us.
In reply, I grabbed the animal's bridle, trying to reach out and sooth the horse's spirit with my own as best I could. But the animal was unseeing and unwilling to listen – and his rearing and bucking about could harm himself as much as it could prove detrimental to the wagon full of people he pulled. Hearing the anxious voices of the people within the wagon strengthened my own resolve, and as best I could, I reminded the horse of the burden he carried, asking him to put his own fears aside in order to protect and serve - as much as the natural inclinations of his being were created to do. He calmed – if only just - and pulled, but the wagon was heavy and stuck on the slope. He turned wide, frustrated eyes on me in reply; a look which I returned in kind.
“Should we -” the man who was trying to guide the animal began to ask, and I shook my head.
“No,” I answered. “The threat is being seen to, but they cannot move to a more defensible position until we are away. We need to move, and move now.”
Yet, as soon as the words left my mouth, I heard a noise that caused a sinking feeling to fill my gut. The back axle cracked with the strain of the mud and the struggling horse. The wheel gave way moments later, sticking in the deep sediment and the entire wagon then dipping as the weight of the cart turned lopsided. The draft horse whinnied anxiously, feeling the shift in its burden, even as the men cursed and rushed forth to support the missing wheel before the weight of the cart drew the animal backwards into the last cart behind us. There was a chorus of anxious sounds from inside of the canvas flaps, but I could not spare the moment to assure them – not now.
Even with the men supporting the weight of the broken wheel, the wagon was slow to move as the draught horse struggled. To further compound the situation, the men supporting the broken wheel were now locked into that place. They were needed there; they could not move, not even to protect themselves from . . .
Though Glorfindel's men were making relatively quick work of the trolls, their task was long and arduous – and even with their best efforts, there was one troll climbing down into the gorge who did not look to the flashing elven swords and enraged might they conveyed, but rather, to what he thought to be easy pickings in the tiring men and struggling beasts.
The creature was awkward and lumbering, with leathery grey-brown skin stretched tight over bulging limbs. His dark eyes were tiny in the great mass of his head as they swiveled too and fro, searching . . . seeking.
Behind us, another wave of light filled the clearing as Glorfindel dealt with one troll, and then moved on to another, and the brightness of his spirit drew at my own, making me wonder . . .
I was not familiar with using my fëa as a weapon, as a force of nature, in a sense, even though I had seen my mother do so a dozen times before. While I had not the gift Galadriel had, she was still half of my being, and in a time of great duress perhaps I could convey even a fraction of her might. Maybe it would just be enough to . . .
In the end, the circumstances of the battle decided for me. Glorfindel's men could not be spared, and the troll was lumbering ever closer to the stuck wagons and the men who could not move. My decision made, I moved away from the front of the wagon and slipped down to the bottom of the slope, planting myself firmly behind the last cart. I did not bother drawing a weapon, instead concentrated my attention inwardly, looking deep within myself to draw everything I could to the forefront of my spirit.
The light of my fëa was not the sun - which was a toxic force to a troll - but it was still a light, silver and full as it drew on the dawning moon and rising stars above. With a calm I had not expected to feel, I concentrated on that which I wanted to protect, all that I was determined that would not to be touched by that which was profane, that which was born of the Shadow itself. I muttered my words to Varda as I did so, feeling the stars turn bright as the Starkindler's name held the creature at bay as much as the light of my spirit did, the mere syllables of the Vala-queen's glory anathema to the troll's very existence.
I did not need to fight the troll, I only needed to stun it long enough for Glorfindel's men to make progress in their task – or for help to reach us from further up in the wagon train. So, I held my ground, determined not to let the creature pass. No matter what.
The bright cast of my spirit had the unexpected effect of inspiring the frightened draft horse to find a strength deep inside himself, and with a cry of triumph, the men were able to coax him over the lip, and the last wagon then staggered up after that. The men wasted little time in getting the passengers out of the wheel-less cart and into the second one, where they would then put distance between themselves and the trolls, but only if I held my own.
All too quickly I could feel myself wearying, unused as I was to battling in such a way. My bow still rested on my back, but my limbs were sluggish to my use, and I did not think that I could draw it, even if it would have been effective against the creature.
Drained though I was, I was still able to keep up the light I was projecting. I felt as if I moved through a haze as I ducked this way and that, but I was still fast enough to avoid the troll's massive fists. I danced between his blows, slipping in the mud and fighting away the sensation of my limbs seemingly turning to stone as I quickly lost the energy to hold them upright. I felt a warning pressure deep within me, telling me where I dug too deep for too much, distantly reminding me of Fëanor and Fingon the Valiant - whose fëar blazed so brightly in battle that they burned through the shells of their bodies in death . . . and while I most certainly did not foresee such an ending for myself, I could abstractly understand the force that felled them as my breath turned alight, seemingly burning through my lungs with each inhale and exhale. I felt full fit to burst with my pulse thundering in my ears and even my fingertips aching with light as I forced the creature back - and back, and back.
And, for a long while, I succeeded - until the wet terrain again turned against us. I felt as I took a wrong step, as I slipped, and -
- I recovered myself, rolling and trying to stand again, only to be trapped by a massive foot coming down hard on my arm, pinning me in the mud. I winced as pain bit through me, for elvish limbs were hardy, but not that hardy – and even though a similar blow would have crushed the arm of a Man, I could still feel a burning pain spreading up from my trapped limb, nonetheless warning me of the damage done to my body. Biting my lip, I did my best to rise above the pain clouding my mind, trying desperately to free myself as the creature now ignored the waning light of my fëa as he bent down, attempting to pick me up by the back of my hair.
My mind raced, wondering what I should do as the light of my spirit flickered in reply to the queasy sensation that accompanied my body trying to vanquish its pain, when -
- the light of my spirit was unexpectedly joined by another. I felt where the waning silver of my fëa were buoyed, embraced and fortified and then projected outwards again. The troll blinked in surprise at the massive wave of pure energy assaulting him, before he howled and dropped me, stumbling backwards as if struck by a mighty blow. I took a moment to let the seemingly endless sea of blue light race through my limbs, numbing my pain and fortifying me to find my feet and stand again.
Yet, I did not have to bring myself to face the troll again. Only a fraction of the trolls who had first attacked were left standing, and Glorfindel's men were nearing the end of their bouts with those remaining. Though I knew that my plight had come to Elrond's attention from the first – I could feel his worry and his anger, and I had unconsciously blocked the growing awareness between our minds, lest I distract him from his own fight – my foe now had his undivided attention. I watched, entranced by the terrible grace and serene power that was an enraged Elf-lord set upon an adversary, and when Glorfindel too did away with his last troll to assist Elrond . . .
The troll did not last long after that, and the few left standing soon retreated – pursued by Glorfindel's men, who would not let them live to plague the Men anew on some other day. The silence that fell in the gorge was deafening in the absence of ringing steel and gruesome bellows, and I made it only a step before my boneless legs forced me to kneel down next to the stream. The adrenaline faded from my limbs as a painful sort of awareness filled me instead – my body crossly informing me of every way I had just abused it in great detail. I closed my eyes against the overload of sensory information, grateful for Elrond's spirit still buoying my own, unsure as I was if I would have been able to stay upright without it.
But, I reflected with no small amount of satisfaction, we had won. We had guarded those we meant to protect, with little loss to ourselves but for cuts and bruises and one unfortunate wagon. When compared to the losses the Men could have known . . .
“They were attacked at the front of the train, as well,” Glorfindel informed us, tilting his head as if listening to a far off voice. He was untouched but for the mud coating the gilded plates of his armor, and the black blood staining his cheeks was not his own. In his eyes there was still a burning light, not yet banked by the peace of the moment.
“Yet, the casualties Barlor's men suffered are few,” Elrond concluded. “Their wounds are nothing that will not heal.”
“And, the trolls?” I asked. “Are there more?”
Elrond looked thoughtfully at the felled beasts lining the gorge, even as Glorfindel turned his eyes to the north. “Between Barlor's efforts and our own, we have cleared much of what remained from Sauron's forces. These who attacked us were simply stragglers, desperate and attracted to the idea of a quick and easy meal.”
“Without Sauron's presence holding them here, they will eventually return to the dark of the north,” Elrond said after a long moment. The look in his eyes matched Glorfindel's, bright as they still were with righteous anger and the fervor of battle. I could feel his power whisper through me as something tangible, and I gratefully recovered what strength from him I could. “Barlor's people will have to be alert for some time, yet this is a care he already knows to face. They have precautions set in place.”
“I am glad,” I said, my voice distant to my own ears. Determinedly, I tried to rise to my feet again, but my balance was precarious, and I did not realize how badly I had injured my arm until I tried to move it in order to assist with my balance.
I was saved from stumbling in a most ungracious way by Elrond stepping forward to come to my aid. He threaded his arm through my good arm, and I let him support my weight with no small amount of relief. I wished to move on my own power, but I was then quite boneless, and the idea of walking any further . . . In reply to my thoughts, Elrond's arm moved around my shoulders, encouraging me to lean more of my weight against him.
“You are hurt,” he stated, rather than asked. I looked, and saw where concern turned his eyes dark and probing. Where his spirit was still succoring mine, his presence turned searching, and he quickly found the source of my pain.
Glorfindel stepped forward, worry too worn on the softening angles of his face. I forced myself to smile, not wanting a fuss to be made over me. “It is nothing serious. Truly, it is not,” I said, but I could see where neither man believed me, though they tactfully said nothing more in query.
“Barlor has his people breaking camp ahead,” Elrond said after a moment spent communicating with someone further ahead in his mind. “There are springs to wash off this mud, and shelter enough for the night. There, I may look at your arm and see how serious the damage done is.”
I was grateful for the idea of cleansing and rest - I just had to stand upright long enough to make it there. With the thought, I looked at the slope exiting the gorge with no small amount of trepidation – a trepidation which was settled when Elrond moved quicker than I could follow, only knowing that one moment I was resting my weight against him, and the next moment he was carrying me, my good arm draped around his shoulders and my bad arm cradled against his chest. I made to protest before thinking the better of it - for I truly did not know if I could conquer the rise on my own, and really, it was not at all terrible to be carried in such a way. Though I could not feel the heat of his body through his armor, I could feel the warmth of his spirit still buoying my own, and the sway of his body soothed me to the point where I quite forgot about my weariness and pain. I felt safe, and I felt content, and I focused on that over all else.
And I reflected . . . not once during the fight did I truly feel as if I was in danger. I had a presence at my back, and I trusted that no matter what happened I could count on him, I could depend on him . . . and he had not failed me. Rather, he continued to see to my wellbeing even now. His spirit settled in a niche next to my own, as if such a place had been hollowed in me for him, and the comfort and ease of that was one that turned my mind and pricked at my awareness.
Yet, I did not bother thinking further about his ability to aid me in such a deeply fundamental way. Instead, I simply let myself appreciate and enjoy the warmth of him, and slowly, we made our way back to where the Men were camped ahead.
Fantastic details of the journey. Great talk with Abaril
The battle against the trolls - superb edge of seatness. Celebrian is a valiant warrior and she and Elrond are even closer tied to one another now.
This is such an excellent fiction! I spent a whole night reading it. Never seen a story with Celebrian POV before and it's such a fresh angle. Besides, it's the best Elrond/Celebrian fic I've ever read! Really hope you're not abandoning it.
ewt329 - welcome to the NSW side of things. And you could not have stumbled upon a more stupendous Tolkienesque writer. Absolutely does justice to that grand and marvelous worldscape!
Great action along with great love.
All caught up and I must say how Tolkien's world(s) are beautifully sculpted into your story. The mixture of Elf, Dwarf, Ents, and Men is very pleasing and the relationships carry one seamlessly into the fic. his spirit settled into a niche next to my own was a lovely phrase.
Great acticon and love how Elrond takes care of her