The Song Of Sunset
9. Celebrimbor's Folly Part Five
“Any luck with the smith?” Elrond asked him.
“He gave me a new mail suit,” Erestor said wryly, “And gave us the permission to lead whoever wants to leave the city to Lothlórien.”
Glorfindel sighed tiredly, “Greenwood’s under heavy attack. Amdir’s rider said that they have lost all contact with Oropher’s kingdom.”
“Has Gil sent aid?” Elrond asked worriedly.
“Círdan has been sent out as the head of the host, Gil wrote to me,” Erestor said in a relieved tone, “Our ernil owes me one.”
Glorfindel sobered up saying, “Elrond, you and Erestor are to manage the refugees. I will hold the defences along with Aldor,” he said harshly noting Elrond opening his mouth to protest, “NO, you obey me! Get to Lothlórien, we shall retreat in due time, after clearing the trail.”
“We should obey him, Elrond,” Erestor said with deceptive seriousness causing Glorfindel to wrinkle his forehead with wariness, “After all, Glor’s not used to sharing his ‘glory’. But Glor, do leave out atleast one Wraith to the young Aldor.”
Glorfindel gave a grudging smile before saying authoratively, “I will not allow you both on the field today. If our army fails, you must be there to defend the refugees till whatever end,” the last three words resounded ominously in the air.
Erestor nodded woodenly and Elrond repeated, “Till whatever end. It shall be so, Glorfindel, as you command.”
Glorfindel sighed and exchanged a warrior’s embrace with Elrond. When he turned to Erestor, however, he gathered the younger elf into his arms in a rough embrace and said tersely, “Stay alive, Erestor, and Elbereth watch over you.”
Erestor smiled unconvincingly and pressed a chaste kiss on Glorfindel’s forehead as he entreated him, “Come back to us, Glor, whole and safe. Valar be with you.”
They watched Glorfindel and Aldor lead the remaining army into battle. The ancient warrior was resplendent in his shining armour and helm, his Eldar heritage casting an aura around him. His long broadsword was raised in defiance against all evil. Elrond knew that he would never forget that magnificent and terrible sight even after thousands of years.
He prayed silently and turned to find Erestor still watching Glorfindel, a single tear glistening down his left cheek. Elrond had never before seen such a heart wrenching expression in those black eyes. It made him do what he had never the courage to do before. He hugged Erestor.
Erestor’s head leaned on Elrond’s shoulder a fraction of a second before he straightened himself saying, “I shall talk to Celebrimbor one last time. You lead them out. Stay safe, Elrond.”
That was how Elrond Half-Elven, Herald and Heir to High King of the Noldor in Lindon, began leading the long retreat out of Eregion.
Thranduil grimly ordered his elves into a defensive circle. They were outnumbered, surrounded and tired. The horses had started collapsing. The elves were out of arrows and now had to resort to swords thus expending more energy and time for each kill. The situation was disastrous, he reflected furiously.
“My prince?” his second in command asked nervously, “Would it not be better to retreat?”
Thranduil spared him a withering glare before saying aloud to his men, “No foul creature of Morgoth shall besmirch the land of the First Born Sindar! As long as there are still true elven hearts to hold a weapon under the eaves of GreenWood the Great! Spare not a single one of these abominations!”
He led the charge once again to defend the land he loved the most with his flesh and blood. He could only pray to the Valar that he might keep his word to his father, to return to him. If he did not, he was sure that Oropher would follow him soon into the Halls of Mandos.
Glorfindel turned back once to find two dark haired figured hugging on the ramparts. He sighed. Something told him that Elrond’s infatuation, for he believed it to be just that, would soon reach Gil’s ears. And he prayed that he was not with the King that day.
“Lord Elrond is a noble soul,” Aldor remarked.
“Yes, indeed,” Glorfindel replied cautiously, wondering what had provoked that remark.
“My father used to tell us that one who loves in silence and suffers alone for that love is truly a courageous soul,” Aldor said pleasantly.
Glorfindel replied in an unemotional tone, “I have no idea what you are talking about, My Prince.” They rode together in uneasy silence each pondering his own thoughts.
“My Lord!” A guard alerted Thalion, “Our reserve troop has rushed to aid the elves the Prince was leading,” he hesitated.
“Is the Ernil all right?” Thalion barked worriedly.
The guard took a deep breath and whispered, “He has been stabbed twice by a Morgul blade. He is already in the land of the black dreams. They are riding here with all haste that his condition will permit.”
“Bring him to the Healing Halls,” Thalion ordered and turned swiftly to find himself face to face with Oropher himself.
“My Lord,” Thalion began uncertainly as he took in Oropher’s distraught features.
“I lead the next sortie, Thalion. Ask Gaeior to manage things in my absence,” Oropher’s voice trembled with anger and fear, “And if my son does not recover, Green wood shall need a new King.”
“Oropher,” Thalion laid his palm on the King’s shoulder, “You are in no condition to be on the battlefield. And who will greet the Ernil when he wakes?”
“I will rather die on the field than die watching my son suffer,” Oropher said bitterly, “I should have sent him away, banished him.”
“That’s enough, cousin,” Celeborn said firmly as he joined them, “I shall lead the patrols this turn and you keep the Prince company this day. Tomorrow we shall reverse roles. And the day after Thranduil will certainly ride again leaving us ancients at home.”
A group of riders emerged from the forest bearing the wounded Thranduil on a litter. Oropher whispered, “My son”
Thranduil thrashed weakly on his makeshift litter murmuring, “I promised him I would return.”
Oropher said furiously, “Sauron will pay for this!”
Galadriel watched the young Sindar prince fight for his life. She sighed. The Prince was strong in mind and devoted to his father. She had no doubts that he would resist Mandos. But she sincerely wished that he would never regret defying the call of death. For nobody denied death without paying the highest cost. The visions in her mirror changed and she saw Elrond hugging Erestor atop the ramparts of Eregion. She frowned as she considered the implications of Elrond’s ill fated love.
“Mother?” Celebrían’s voice issued in the glade.
The images in the mirror changed abruptly and Galadriel saw her daughter on board a ship. Her heart wrenched. The expression on Celebrían’s face struck her to the core.
“Mother, naneth? It is time for dinner,” Celebrían approached her.
Galadriel turned away from the mirror wearily.
Glorfindel retched miserably. He had been feeling sick and nauseous ever since the encounter with the Witch King that day in the battle. While the rest of the army had almost revered him after that, Glorfindel was not in mood to appreciate the ululations. He had been afraid, very much so, it was like facing the Balrog again. Dying once did not make dying any easier, however people reasoned so. He would have turned tail and run, but duty kept him there, not valour or courage. Duty, he thought wryly, duty was the strongest chain that bound a person to his destiny.
“My Lord,” an aide peeked in, “The captains wish to call you for dinner.”
Glorfindel wiped his mouth irritably and said, “I will not be joining them.” How could people think that he was immune to weariness?
A few moments later, the tent flap opened again and a deep voice asked him, “May I join you, My Lord?”
Glorfindel turned, it was Aldor. He said plainly, “I am not in a good temper nor in good health. You should not join me.”
Aldor smiled. Glorfindel noted abstractly that the young chieftain, for chieftain he was, now that his father was dead, was handsome when he smiled.
“My Lord,” Aldor said easily, “Neither temper nor health can be improved by solitary brooding.”
Glorfindel was about to reply with a choice barb when nausea arose again. Struggling to his feet, he emptied his stomach into a pail. Dry heaves punctuated his breathing. As he bent over with pain, a strong hand gently massaged his back and then quietly helped him stand straight. Glorfindel was really bad tempered now. He hated to be weak before others and now he was rendered so low before a young human!
“We all need help from time to time,” Aldor remarked as he wet a cloth and gently wiped Glorfindel’s face, “Certainly with your long life, you should acknowledge that.”
“Let me be and leave the tent,” Glorfindel said tiredly, “I am in no mood to argue.”
Aldor did not reply as he quietly led Glorfindel to the small camp bed and made him sit on it. Then he proceeded to remove Glorfindel’s boots. Glorfindel was too tired to protest. He dully noted Aldor removing his tunic and then slip on a nightshirt onto his unresisting form. Then he was gently eased onto the bed.
Glorfindel murmured as he drifted off into a healing sleep, “Thank you.”
Aldor smiled, “Now I shall leave you and let you be, my friend.”
He sighed as he watched the ancient warrior sleep exhaustedly. But even in this very weak state, Glorfindel of Gondolin and Lindon was a majestic presence. And very beautiful and desirable, Aldor noted. Glorfindel tossed about restlessly in the cot clearly under some nightmarish dream.
Aredhel moved towards the writhing elf and smoothed his brow soothingly saying, “You are safe, Glorfindel. Rest.”
“’Res, you should not be here,” the elf murmured sadly, “but don’t leave me alone now. I am scared.”
‘Res? Aldor mused, who was that? Glorfindel’s lover? He shook his head tersely. He did not understand why the idea of Glorfindel having a lover upset him so.
“Stay with me, ‘Res,” Glorfindel said plaintively.
Aldor let go of his doubts chiding himself. Glorfindel was not in a condition to be left alone. Even if the warrior would be most displeased come morning, Aldor knew instinctively that he could not let Glorfindel be alone to face his nightmares tonight. He slowly lowered himself onto the cot and gathered the elf into his arms. Glorfindel’s breathing became more calm as he relaxed and snuggled closer to the human King. Aldor thought that the elf looked so like an innocent child in his repose. He smiled ironically, to describe Glorfindel, the mighty Seneschal of the High King of the Noldor, as an innocent, vulnerable child was preposterous.
Thalion vainly attempted to hold down the thrashing Prince. Even with three powerfully built elves aiding him, he was finding it very hard to ease Thranduil back onto the bed. He sighed. Thranduil was slipping further into the blackness.
“My Lord Healer,” his assistant, a young elf maiden barely past her majority, said quietly, “I think he is weakening.”
Thalion said decisively, “Burn the athelas. If that does not work, nothing else will,” he paused, “Elbereth! That must work, or Green wood shall be left without a King as well as a Prince!”
Oropher stood outside the Healing Halls with Celeborn who had returned after leaving Círdan in charge. The retreating orcs no longer posed any trouble. But Círdan was hunting them down mercilessly. Celeborn did not understand why the ancient mariner was so furious when he heard that Thranduil was hurt.
They could smell the pungent fragrance of the athelas as the healers prepared the vapours within. Oropher waited silently refusing to give in to his own despair. His son was strong and he was fighting tooth and nail against the darkness that threatened to claim him. He would recover, Oropher told himself, even Fate could not be this cruel.
“Cousin,” Celeborn said quietly, “Your son is a fighter and a survivor. He shall not give into Mandos’ call.”
Oropher nodded bleakly. Seeing his son injured had been seeing his worst nightmare come alive. How could he go on if…He shuddered inspite of himself.
Then an aide came out and told them smiling, “All is well, My Lords. He shall wake soon.”
Oropher prayed a silent thanks to the Valar and slumped against the wall exhaustedly.
“However,” Celeborn said more solemnly, “The fact remains that he has chosen his lot to be with you. In Middle Earth. You do not need me to tell you that peace shall not last longer in our realms. Sauron will wage war soon. And all of us shall need to ride against him, cousin, even your son. You may decree him against it, but he will follow you.”
Oropher nodded again saying determinedly, “I have thought of it, Celeborn, and I think that I have a solution. Amdir’s daughter, she has a strong heart. She can pull my son through and keep him alive if they bond. So I intend to get them married as soon as possible.”
Celeborn said wryly, “Marriage bonds are for safety and not for love, eh?”
“Of course not!” Oropher said indignantly, “You should know better than saying so. My son loves the girl and so does she.”
“A lot of people love your son, Oropher. He is the most eligible bachelor around now,” Celeborn smirked.
“I know his mind. He loves the Princess and she, well, she is of noble blood on her mother’s side. The Line of Elu Thingol and Melian the Maia. She will marry only if she loves him truly. I have heard fiery tales of her. She will suit him well,” Oropher said wisely.
“Ah! Atleast you are not hindered by a wife who insists her mirror tells her that your only child should marry a person who is already in love with another,” Celeborn said sadly, gazing out of the window as he thought of his beloved daughter, so young, yet a pawn in her mother’s plans.
“Galadriel is messing about with your child’s heart?” Oropher asked incredulously, “In what way?”
“She wants her to marry the Peredhil, Gil-Galad’s heir,” Celeborn wrinkled his nose, “Tell me, how sane is that?”
Oropher shook his head disbelievingly, “Galadriel may be many things, but she is no fool. She sees more than the rest. Certainly she must have seen that Elrond is doomed to end up my way, his is a tragic love. What benefit shall Celebrían have from marrying one who cannot even guarantee her his heart?”
“It is when Galadriel says things like these that I feel like sailing west with my child, cousin,” Celeborn sighed, “She’s changed.”
“Even elves change. But the hearts remain true,” Oropher said steadfastly.
“Why are you supporting my Noldor wife?” Celeborn asked ironically, “You should say ‘I told you so’. After all you have been proved right. I love her still. But she, I can no longer see what she feels. The mirror holds her in thrall.”
Oropher shook his head before saying, “I think you need to speak with her openly before either you cross the point of no return. I saw her at the wedding. I thought for a moment that she was fading. She has become but a shell of herself, cousin. I see no good in this. Destroy the mirror before it destroys you both.”
“She might be feeling that she made a mistake in marrying me,” Celeborn said woebegone, “Do you think so, Oropher?”
“You are a fool,” Oropher’s lips twitched slightly as he took in his cousin’s expression, “Both of you are fools. And both of you are still in love with each other. After all the centuries both of you spent swooning over each other, now you think you have made a mistake? Well, I still think you made a mistake in marrying her, but that is just because I mistrust Fëanor’s house. I have been proved wrong, once by Maglor, who took care of those two elflings and now young Erestor. So I have been proved wrong. But as I have a reputation to uphold as being stubborn, I will continue to criticize them.”
“I have not been faithful to her and our vows for centuries,” Celeborn confessed openly, “And I fear the mirror shall be always between us.”
Oropher smirked, “I do not need your confession, cousin,” he lowered his voice, “My son rarely talks about his bed partners. But even his reticence was thawed after he spent a season in Lothlórien. And he talked the most about the activities of a certain prolific Silver Tree.”
A light blush tinged Celeborn’s cheeks as he murmured, “He should not have told you that! I am sorry. It was a mistake.”
Oropher waved aside his apology saying, “My son is capable of making even very ancient elves commit mistakes, if the much filtered tales about a certain mariner that reached my ears are true.”
Celeborn felt sudden understanding dawn, “Oh! That was why Círdan was so angry after I told him the Prince was wounded!”
Then the doors of the healing chambers opened and Thalion faced them, a huge smile on his careworn features.
Oropher grinned like a fool as he asked, “May I see him now?”
“He will have no other watch over him, as you well know, My Lord,” Thalion grumbled, “The proverbial will of Thranduil Oropherion saves the day again.”
Celeborn and Thalion watched amusedly as Oropher practically bounced inside the chamber. A moment later, they could hear a joyous shout, “ADA!”
All was well in Green wood the Great again.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.