15. Time of Vigil
I dedicate this to Hanna, who doesn't know I intended to, and will upon reading this probably never speak to me again, since I doubt she would want such a chapter. But you gave me a song, and made me write this…
I want to thank Katy, Alena, ShinElrond, Joan Milligan and HnrBoy for pre-reading my chapter.
Slight warning: highly emotional, somewhat depressive content
On a time, long ago, as she passed over the Mountains to visit her mother in the land of Lórien, Orcs waylaid the road, and she was taken captive by them and tormented; and […] she was rescued by Elrond and his sons, and brought home and tended, and her hurts of body were healed […]
from 'The Peoples of Middle-earth', the History of Middle-earth, volume 12, by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
Chapter 15 Time of Vigil
Celebrían had seen it before, that moment… No, not exactly seen it, felt it… Long ago…
It had been in a dream, one of her own or one of Elrond's, she could not be certain; it had been too long ago and too collective. It had been the same darkness, the same omen of fear…
But that had been a dream, a chilling vision from beyond, and this was not, this was taking place…
As the first shadow emerged from its hiding place, its movements horrifically shrewd, her horse reared up. She attempted to stay in the saddle, holding on to the reigns, but did not succeed.
The last she heard was the neighing of the horses, and a distressed call coming from one of her escorts, as she hit the ground, struggling against the blackness… Then suddenly grabbing hands forced her mind back, her natural instincts making her fight, protecting. Pushing and kicking she found herself free, reaching for the reigns of the horse, only to be caught again, pulled back…
The horse exhibited such fear, not wanting to stay or go…
She cried out in anger and distress, trying to gather courage from it, and the strength necessary to renew her efforts. She slipped, as at the same time the horse seized its chance to flee. Turning onto her back, she could feel her every limb aching…
The creatures seemed amused by her, she realised in terror, observing her, before nearing again, renewing their advance. How dare you? Celebrían thought. Who are you to stand there and entertain yourself with me?
Once more she tried to clamber onto her feet, finding someone on the ground beside her, a face she recognised, the eyes in a stare, lifeless… For a moment she was in shock, unable to move.
It took less than an instant for them to take advantage of it.
She persisted in struggling, but where at first there had only been a few, there now where many…
In the end, all proved futile. A sudden, fierce pain in her shoulder manifested itself, before more followed… She screamed. Her consciousness tried to hide from the pain, from reality…
Elbereth give me the strength… Either that or allow me to go to Mandos…
Liberate me… Do not force me to go through this… Then she thought of Elrond, her children, her parents… Elrond…
After that, there was one thing foremost in her mind, as her body froze. That of which the Eldar seldom speak. The Separation…
And all the while, something deep inside cried, kept crying. Away! Away… To somewhere else…
Was there hope of rescue? A despondent thought… No… And yet…
Elrond urged the horse to go faster, even though there was no possibility that it could indeed increase its speed.
Elladan had sent someone ahead, to relay word of their arrival. They had found her, rescued her, but not in time, not in time…
He crossed the river Bruinen before he knew it, riding towards them, towards her… Fear and anger were fighting for the upper hand, but he would not allow either get the better of him now. When finally the riders came into sight, he was reluctant to slow down, searching, trying to discover a sign, the smallest indication that she was not…
'Tis father…' Elrohir throatily called to his brother, who held a limp body in his arms, the tears streaming across his cheeks. Elladan hastily blinking, to indeed find his father, tall and impressive, not showing any emotion, coming towards them.
As Elrond only slowed and turned until the last moment, he motioned his horse alongside his son. What followed was a mental demand, sharper and more emotional than anything else could have been. Hand her to me…
The Lady of Imladris moaned softly as she was handed over to her Lord.
Elrond's eyes flashed to meet Elladan's, his son's teary eyes showing a pain that could not be hidden, his own filling with a glimmer of hope. Perhaps it was not too late entirely…
'Heb-lim*, Celebrían…' He whispered, intensely longing to let her know he was there, but her mind seemed to be enclosing all it had endured; banning everything out, and him along with it. Making sure his arm was firmly around her, he spurred the horse. He had to bring her home, there he could do more…
Most knew by then what had come about, and even though they all wished to see, none stood by as Elrond returned, except Arwen, whom he had left in tears, now strangely calm and reserved.
He paid her no heed, nor Glorfindel, or anyone if they had been there.
Elrond carried her, his butterfly, so cruelly de-winged now, and his heart fell with every step he took.
If I had kept her with me one more day…
If I had only gone with her…
Meanwhile continuing to explore the outline of her mind, trying to find a hole in her defence. Somehow it had saved her from Mandos up till now… Mandos…
Glorfindel watched Elrond, much as he in turn watched Celebrían, never resting, never leaving. But where Elrond was alone, his mind focused on only one thing, Glorfindel found himself surrounded by a group of people that felt as strongly about these two people as he, speaking their minds, and the outside world inescapably involved.
The children would not leave.
Mithrandir too, having arrived only a day before the Lady's departure, sat by the window of the adjoining room day and night, waiting, as they all were. Even Erestor could be found there most of the time, taking care only of that which was most important; coordinating the less vital tasks between Elrond's junior secretaries.
Word had been sent to Lórien, and Glorfindel doubted it would take long for either the Lord or the Lady, probably both, to arrive at Imladris. Still, he was uncertain of what they could do; all had been attempted by Elrond already.
Elrond buried his head in his hands.
Where before, speed and haste had seemed so vital, now, after he had done all that was possible, only the slow passing of time seemed to remain.
Never had he been so conscious of it, of every minute that crept by, and all the while nothing happening, everything staying as it was; not better, not worse…
Elrond was most uncomfortable with the silence from Celebrían. Not an echo; everything closed. Lovers, though at times a certain barrier remained, had almost no secrets between them. How different now…
In his anguish, many stages seemed to go by. Anger seemed to ebb away, only to revisit with such force as to hit him back into reality. Tiredness gave the impression of being of a more passing nature; as if there was a moment after which he did not feel it anymore. But it always returned, much opposite to the sense of powerlessness, which never went.
He called not to the stars, not to the Lady, not this time…
Once he had asked to keep his Lord safe, and it had not been so…
Innumerable times had he prayed to them to keep his family safe, and now, it was not so…
What can she possibly have done to deserve this?
If there was a mistake, she made it through the goodness of her heart…
By loving me… If it was that which has angered you, punish me, not her…
Elrond was aware of the arrival of Galadriel and Celeborn.
No one informed him, and they did not enter into this twilit room that was his world now. But sometimes, from the corners of his eyes, he saw their shadowy figures on the threshold, hesitant to intrude.
Only one of the household dared to, but only occasionally did he discern his daughter's voice, her touch upon his shoulder, gone again before he really noticed she had been there… Not even his evenstar seemed able to chase the shadows away now… To dispel the anguish that now housed in his heart.
Lying on their bed, so small, almost a shadow of her former being, his hopes sank every time he looked at Celebrían; every time he checked her wounds, his heart broke further, desperately trying to breach the mental barrier… But she had severed any link, with the children, her parents, him… Yet how she found the strength to endure this, he knew not…
For goodness sake, gwilwileth, come back to me… I cannot bear this marred place without you…
No sleep, no food, only some water, and only after he wetted Celebrían's lips first… The lips that had caressed his skin, had met his own countless times, now pale, most unnatural…
It was after the first days, in which he had fought the poison and won, he realised the struggle was not his, had never been his. He could heal her body, but nothing else. An impasse…
The irony of it, Elrond reflected, crestfallen. The Lord of Imladris, wise Master Elrond, who had survived battles where even the mightiest had fallen, could do naught.
Sorrow and anger continued to surge within him, still fighting for ascendancy. In the end it was tiredness that came and almost triumphed.
For days he had tried to sit, resting open-eyed, ready to react when she needed him. But she didn't. Her chest only heaving ever so slightly, seemingly never enough to breathe properly. No sound, no sign, nothing…
Elrohir nudged Elladan as they watched Elrond, head resting in his hand.
'We leave him so?'
Elladan nodded slowly. Elrohir shook his head.
'What can we do?'
Elladan's voice was soft.
Arwen caught Elladan by the elbow.
'If you go now, I shall never forgive you.'
Elrond pulled his robes closer around him, cold, yet unwilling to leave and collect something warmer. The shivering stayed, plaguing him as the need for rest did. He needed to move, but his limbs were heavy, his brain, it seemed, failing to give him clear judgement. Sorrow remained, tiring him even more.
How much worse than death was this? If she was to wake, how could he expect her to go on, for the remainder of her time in Arda, a shadow of her former self…
Then the tears came, and he was not able to hold them back. Despair, weariness, all of it, coming forward… Grieving for her, for the children, her parents, for himself…
An inward reprimand did not help. Blaming it on tiredness did not make it go away.
It were Arwen's arms around him, her eyes and cheeks as wet as his own, that calmed him slightly. For the first time in days he had been shaken out of the tunnel he had found himself in.
It was not expressly him being soothed by his daughter, as much as it was the other way around. Pressing Arwen against his shoulder, her arms around his chest, he stroked her hair trying to find the peace he needed, trying to give her the support she so desperately wished.
'Walk with me, ada*.' She whispered. 'You would not have to go far, just a little way, to get out of here, if only for a little bit… Grandmother and grandfather will stay with mother. Please?'
Elrond released her and rubbed his face, somehow trying to regain what he had missed over the past days.
'How long has it been?'
Arwen caught his hand as he lowered it onto his knee.
'Eight days, ada.'
He caught her other hand.
'You understand I cannot go, my little one?'
Arwen nodded, her eyes filling again.
'Will you not even go into the next room for a moment?'
Elrond shook his head slowly.
'But I am glad you came…'
The younger Lady of Imladris looked at her father, eyes pleading.
'Only for a little while.'
Elrond's hand rose to move a lock of hair out of Arwen's face, before he found a smile from deep within.
'I cannot now…'
Arwen nodded and kissed him on the cheek, staying, but leaving once he had sunken back into rumination again.
When he stumbled out of the world of half-sleeping he was infuriated with himself… It had happened only once before, innocent really, and Gil-galad had forgiven him without a second thought.
But he would never forgive himself if…
Quickly he knelt beside the bed and touched her arm, but it was as cold as before…
Slowly Elrond rested his forehead against the side of the bed.
'Celebrían… If you go to Mandos, I will follow… Without a second thought…'
Meaning every word of the statement terrified him more then the notion of Mandos itself.
Celebrían fought herself through the thick layers that clouded her awareness. He was here… She had heard him… He had come…
How close had she been to giving up?
Yet a voice, questioning her, had made her realise she wasn't ready… Not to go to Mandos, nor to leave her family behind … And now she could hear a new voice, one she knew so well…
Elrond raised his head as he watched her. He swallowed.
'I fear I am losing my mind…'
Her voice was a less than a whisper, his name, only his name.
He was up and beside her, near, observing her closely.
'Celebrían…Please, my love…'
Arwen was beside him, instantly.
Elrond caught her arm. His tone was imperative.
'Get your grandparents, your grandmother, get her now.'
Placing his hand on Celebrían's abdomen, he once more entirely opened his mind to her, to everyone.
Come back, celeb loth-nîn*, I am here…
Nothing, there was nothing, not even a slight touch upon his mind.
'My silver queen… '
She swallowed slowly, before her eyes opened, pointed at the ceiling, as if even her eyes could not bear what they had been made to witness.
Elrond removed his hand, fearing she would somehow remember, relapse.
Suddenly there was Arwen, her hand on his back, her voice in his mind, calling to her mother. Galadriel's came next, more detached, much more peaceful.
Elrond did not dare wake her as she seemed asleep, her breath so slow, her skin so white, lying so still…
He pulled off his robes, leaving him in only his tunic and trousers. Not looking at Galadriel, who sat on the other side, he carefully lowered onto the bed, on his stomach, to be rewarded by Celebrían's opening of her eyes, and a feeble smile.
'Ssh…' Elrond implored, catching her hand, her fingers clutching his, the tips turning even whiter.
Then she shut her eyes again. The joy and life that had once been there, in her entire physique, had gone. Tiredness had replaced it, the scars of psychological and physical pain, abuse… Her hair had lost its shine, the silver and gold glimmer that had been its trademark now dim.
He knew she still held it from him, so much of her strength going to shielding the ones she loved. Almost two days now, a day and two nights after shedding unconsciousness.
'I beg you, lower it, gwilwileth; all your strength is needed for healing, not protecting…'
'I cannot…' She whispered, tears escaping from under her closed eyelids.
'You must…' Elrond returned, as Galadriel quietly rose from her seat and left.
'I can take it, please, let it go…' He whispered, sitting up. He moved closer, but feared to touch her, uncertain on how much she could bear. 'You have to guide me, you need to tell me what to do…'
She was so drained, so fragile, and still there was such perseverance…
'What if it would break both of us…?' She spoke, her exhaustion becoming too much for her alone to bear, it seemed.
Elrond could feel it, the slow unveiling, only a little now, while he wished for so much more.
'Then so be it…'
Her crying broke that of his heart which had been spared before, and he could no longer take it. Cradling her in his arms, he felt her hands grabbing his clothing, so eager for his touch, still trusting him, after such a betrayal…
Then suddenly it was there, a part of him too, even more vivid and terrifying than he had feared. The pain was shared, and he was glad to endure it, knowing it was spared her. Ever-present, dull but persistent, like tiredness, together with the fever from the poison that still lingered in her body.
How much was she a part of him, linked beyond severing? The lover who had carried his children, who received him in her arms, always so strong, even now…
And then… Violation…
When she finally slept, not the fake sleep he had imagined her being in before, but truly resting, he still remained beside her. He listened to every whisper of her mind, knowing, understanding more than he had wished to.
Would he ever be able to truly sleep again? He would give it up, he decided, if that was what was asked of him…
Galadriel appeared in the doorway, and he smiled at her, weakly, rising from the bed, finally able to go, as his mind sustained the link with Celebrían's.
They embraced as she came, and he left, stepping into the next room, looking over those that sat there waiting.
None noticed him at first, Elladan staring into the blankness of the early night, Elrohir, bowed forward, head in his hands. Mithrandir sat with his pipe, his eyes fixed on something outside, Glorfindel beside him. Celeborn sat with Arwen, trying to console her as much as he could. She saw him first.
'Ada…' She called, stumbling over the hem of her dress as she tried to come towards him. Elrond took some quick steps forward and caught her, slowly guiding her to the floor with him, cradling her in his arms, much as he had done earlier with her mother.
'All is well, my evenstar, my little one… Do not worry anymore…' He stroked her hair and shushed her, as she cried with long wails, holding on to him as if she intended never to release him again.
'I heard you speak of Mandos…' She managed, not looking at him.
Elrond pulled her closer, and she buried her face in his clothing.
'It was not intended for other ears.' He whispered, apologising in a way.
Slowly rising again, Arwen looked up at him.
'Can I see her?'
Elrond nodded slowly.
'But be still, she sleeps.'
Watching his daughter, together with Celeborn, join Galadriel, Elrond extended an arm to Elladan, who had stood watching, not wishing to impose. Catching it, he watched his son hold back, the same look in his eyes as the last time they had exchanged it.
'Is she… out of danger?'
Elrond pulled him close, but did not answer. Elrohir neared as well.
'Is there anything we can do?'
With a smile, Elrohir too was drawn into his father's arms.
'Be here, when she asks for you, that is all.' He whispered.
Watching both their faces consent, Elrond allowed them to go, turning to Glorfindel and Mithrandir.
'I wish to thank you both…'
Mithrandir rose, a warm smile on his face, meant for the Elf-lord.
'No need to thank anyone, I am certain. But I will leave for now, for fear of clouding the room too much with smoke.'
Elrond waited before facing Glorfindel.
'I must return in a moment.'
Glorfindel nodded solemnly.
'How is she?'
Elrond took a deep breath, his voice low, Glorfindel the only one to hear.
'I do not know, my friend… It is too early. Do not tell anyone… I fear that while she will recover swiftly in body, she will not in mind…'
Catching Elrond's arms, Glorfindel tried to fathom the meaning of those words.
'Are you saying what I think you are?'
Elrond cleared his throat, and suddenly it seemed as if the barriers were all near disintegrating. Glorfindel watched the Lord of Imladris, desperately trying to maintain his composure. Then, as by lightning, it was gone, and he was serene again.
'I cannot speak the words, Glorfindel, for they will destroy me… And I have to be strong for her, I have to console the children…'
Glorfindel felt Elrond release his grip, and watched him turn around, entering the other room again. He shook his head.
'But who consoles you, meldir?'
'The Separation' indicates the parting of the fëa and the hroa, spirit and physical form. The body dies, while the spirit is summoned to the Halls of Mandos.
heb-lim: hold on
ada: father, daddy (shortening of 'adar')
celeb loth-nîn: my silver flower (literally: silver flower-my)
There are several passages concerning Celebrían's being waylaid in the Misty Mountains. I chose to use the apparent line of events mentioned in Appendix A of Lord of the Rings. The lines heading the chapter were simply the most ominous I could find, and I couldn't help myself using them.
The only solace I can give now, is that Tolkien initially intended to let Celebrían be slain, not rescued, but thankfully changed it. And there is always Valinor…
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.