This one is for Anna: it's nice to have someone nag you about a new chapter… though it might not be entirely what you wanted…
[…]but she lay under a great cloud of fear and she loved Middle-earth no longer; so that at the last Elrond granted her prayer, and she passed to the Grey Havens and went into the West, never to return.
from 'The Peoples of Middle-earth', the History of Middle-earth, volume 12, by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
Chapter 16 Parting
Celeborn and Galadriel spent the autumn evening under the clear night sky, but they did not exactly enjoy themselves.
Having seen their daughter change, in a matter of months, from an independent and headstrong woman into a withdrawn and unhappy presence, no longer finding delight in anything anymore, had been painful.
Each experienced their own qualms; Galadriel, foreseeing this so long ago, still grieved over not timely recognising it; considering that, if she had, perhaps, it could have been prevented. Celeborn, in turn, regretted not collecting his daughter from Imladris, realising full well that he could not have made a difference; only three of the fifteen Elves of Celebrían's escort had survived.
But if silence seemed to be the only thing between them, the careless observer was sorely mistaken. The threads of thought were thickly interwoven, and though there were stays in their mental conversation, every once in a while, it was never so for long. Both knew of their separate worries, and subsequently helped the other deal with it.
Something Elrond and Celebrían had still not returned to.
Elrond watched the two Elves, all the while standing silently in the shadows of the balcony above. Quietly he retreated into the house, replacing the book he had been clutching a moment ago on one of the shelves. Even now, when all was supposed to be going better, reading still could not take his mind off Celebrían. He had intended to try and read a little on the balcony, where he had often enjoyed a mild evening such as the one now, but as soon as his eyes noticed Galadriel and Celeborn, he had frozen.
Without a sound, he made his way into an adjoining room. Catching sight of himself in a mirror, he couldn't help but express some disbelief concerning his appearance. For a moment Elrond paused. He was pale, eyes tired… Looking, dare he say the word, aged. So the millennia had finally caught up… Or rather months of not resting…
Making a grimace at his reflection, he left the mirror and entered the bordering room, his bedroom, their bedroom. He lingered often at this time, almost every night, not willing to make Celebrían in any way uncomfortable.
He lovingly observed her, legs pulled up to chest-height, her arms tightly wrapped around them. She was asleep, he knew, for her thoughts were serene, or as undisturbed as they could possibly be.
She had not asked it of him. Not yet. But she would, he knew.
And how can I not let you go?
He quietly lowered onto his side of the bed and propped a pillow behind his back. Listening to her inner voice, softly speaking, to no one in particular, he felt her touch his mind, delightful little touches, that would have made him wake her on any other occasion. Now he did the only thing he could. Allowing access to his cheerful thoughts, closely sealing off the bad ones. He had to be healer now, nothing else. Give comfort, not need it.
He would let her go, he knew, cautiously guarding the thought. In the end he could not ask her to stay. It would not be living, having to be protected from all. Though, if necessary, he would gladly do so for the remainder of their days in Middle-earth. And walk a half-living life beside her…
When Celebrían woke, she found Elrond, still sitting with the pillow behind him, asleep. Massaging her aching joints, she stayed watching him for a moment. Then she left their bed and went to dress.
The white dress she chose was one of the few that did not irritate her skin where the wounds had once been situated. Not feeling like braiding it, she left her hair loose, and collected a white shawl from deep within the closet.
The morning was cold for the time of year, she reflected, covering herself up further, making her way through the corridors. Though it would soon be heated by the sun reaching over the mountain ridges. The part of the house she walked in was not full of activity yet, but she doubted it would be, for a long while yet. Since Elrond seemed to have abandoned most of his duties, no one seemed to have business here.
Entering the Hall of fire, she assured herself it was deserted before making for the far end. There she took the chair Elrond usually occupied, near the ever-burning fire, from where she was able to oversee the entire hall.
The sensation of his fingertips on the ancient leather book covers always did this to him. His Peaceful Pondering State, Celebrían called it. There was no intention to take any one of the thousands of books from the shelves, but he simply needed their feel, their smell, their presence around him, to take his mind off important things for a moment. He was reading the titles without recognising them, simply recalling some of his own or Celebrían's favourite stories in them, or those of the children… Arwen was especially partial to the story of Isildur's rescue of the fruit of Nimloth when she was younger…
The sound of someone rushing up became evident. Elrond turned, clasping his hands behind his back.
Into the chamber charged Glorfindel, an expression on his face that made the Lord of Imladris worry instantly.
'What is the matter? Something has happened?'
Glorfindel seemed out of breath, but not because of his spurt up to the Lord of Imladris's library. How in Elbereth's sake was he supposed to tell Elrond this? Glorfindel did not know… He truly did not know…
Coming closer, Glorfindel nervously moved his hands. Elrond's brow darkened. Rarely did Glorfindel address him so openly… Indeed the few times when he had, it concerned grave situations.
Tilting his head, Elrond's gaze became searching.
'What is it?'
'I need you to stay calm…' Glorfindel's tone of voice did not achieve what his words asked for. Rather the opposite. 'Elladan and Elrohir have already ridden out, they received the news first, since they were patrolling the outer ridges of the Misty Mountains…'
'Tell me, Glorfindel.' Elrond retorted, having enough of the other Elf's delaying.
Glorfindel did not immediately sound any answer.
'The party was waylaid in Redhorn Pass…'
Elrond hesitated, catching the arm Glorfindel offered. His mouth opened, but nothing came out. The travelling party… Celebrían… He had to go, she needed him… He caught Glorfindel's arm forcing him around, pushing him forward.
'Get a horse ready… Do not stall, my friend, not now…'
'They have already gone, Elrond, they are with many…' Glorfindel did not let Elrond push him on. Elrond looked at him, desperate.
'Get me a horse… Now.'
Glorfindel shook his head, his eyes concerned…
'She did not make it, Elrond, Celebrían, she's…'
With a jerk Elrond was up, suddenly fully awake, panicking and panting. Bringing a hand to his head he tried to calm down. How could she be gone? And why did Glorfindel not do as he asked?
Pulling himself together as much as he could, regulating his breath, he rebuked himself.
It did not happen, just anxiety… All is well… Just foolish dreams…
The nightmare had been a variation on a theme that seemed to return every other night. Each time he failed; either he came too late, or was not able to do enough to save her, and someone told him she had not survived… But he had never before been held back from going to her…
Extending his arm in order to feel Celebrían beside him, he was alarmed when he discovered her absence.
A sudden fear, searing from deeper within him than anything he had ever felt before, made him stumble out of the bed, grabbing the robes he had left hanging over a chair the previous evening. There were not many locations where she could be. He found where he sought for her first.
Her voice echoed through the empty hall, and Elrond dreaded to enter her presence, for fear of startling her, for fear she would stop. She had not sung ever since…it.
There were no words, only a melody; a sad, downhearted one. But she sang…
Closing his eyes, he pressed his back against the wall, the cold of the stones penetrating his clothing, his hands clutching the sides of his robes. Do not stop, my tinúviel*… Please do not stop…
Elrond had not detected Elladan, but his son had observed him.
Following his mother everywhere, desperate to ensure nothing would happen to her ever again, he had silently followed as she had left her rooms. Once she had entered the Hall, he had waited, had listened, before the Lord of Imladris arrived. Still he would not leave. He suspected his father was less stable than his mother at the moment, despite all the apparent signs to the contrary.
The singing stopped and Elladan buried his head in his hands, hiding what was still visible of his face with long dark strands of hair.
Elrohir stooped and rested his hands on his brother's knees.
'Mother is inside?'
Elladan sounded an affirmative sob, which made Elrohir sit down next to his twin, pulling him close and resting his head on the other's shoulder. The youngest Lord of Imladris sighed.
'Perhaps it would be better if you follow father today…'
As soon as Celebrían had spotted Elrond, she had ceased her song, not wanting to worry him. But she realised the wrong had already been done. With the most enchanting smile left to her, she extended a hand to him.
Elrond neared fast, almost impatiently, yet caught her hand gently, looking down. Celebrían brought his hand to her lips, pressing them against it.
'I could not wake you, meleth-nîn, you slept so soundly.'
He sat down on his heels and smiled.
'Yet, I wish you had.'
'I should have stayed.'
Elrond shook his head and cast down his eyes.
'If you wish to go, gwilwileth, you can…'
Trying to let the somewhat equivocal remark go by, Celebrían looked away. She had once cautioned he should take a chance with love, that not everyone he loved would leave… In light of that, how could she go? How could she possibly stay? Every unsuspected movement of anything around her made her remember… She turned to him again.
'Take me for a walk, Elrond, like we used to.'
A nod, and an expression on his face that indicated surprise, relief, but most of all; gratefulness. Rising, offering his arm, he folded her hand into his, as he always did, escorting her out of the large Hall, into the general direction of the gardens.
There had never before been an uncomfortable silence between them, but this seemed as close as ever. Too many unspoken issues continued to hang in the air.
When Celebrían released his arm, Elrond prepared to move a little away from her. Apparently she was not comfortable with him yet. She had trusted him when she had just woken, but during the weeks that followed that disappeared. Weeks had turned into months.
Therefore it was much to his surprise, that, instead of moving away, she placed her arm around his waist, and he could only follow her example. Her voice was hushed, only for him to hear.
'When I first came to Imladris, it was because I was worried for mother, her longing for the sea, to leave Middle-earth. I never understood those feelings until now…'
Elrond listened, his head bowed, silent, and Celebrían continued.
'I think you understand her feelings, I think you have recognised them for a long time… Because of the Rings…'
Elrond watched her.
'How long have you known this?'
Celebrían smiled, and suddenly she seemed so much older than he was, older even than the world…
'I suspected that you held one even before I met you again in Lindon, I only knew for certain, years later, when Mithrandir came.' She sighed. 'And my mother… When she gave me the Elessar it was because she did not need it anymore. Meaning something had replaced it…'
Elrond raised an eyebrow.
'But you guessed I held one?'
Celebrían slowly nodded.
'A feeling… There simply was something about you that told me… Strangely enough, it was only logic and deduction that made me discover my mother as a Ringbearer.'
'Your mother has always been able to disclose such matters better than I.'
Celebrían squeezed his side, a reassuring touch.
'Perhaps I have grown closer to you over the years, and know you better.'
Elrond stopped and caught her hands. He had distinguished something of her old self just now, it was still here, it had not gone entirely…
'Do you know how much I love you, my…'
Celebrían stepped closer and embraced him tightly before he could finish the sentence.
'It is one of the few things in this world I am sure of.'
'Good.' He whispered back, enclosing her within his arms.
But you know not what turmoil is in my mind, beloved husband.
Elrond pulled away and looked at her, fear in his eyes.
'You… Are you well, my love?'
Her answer came with a sigh.
'I will be, Elrond, I will be soon.'
Slowly he bent forward to kiss her, and for a moment he died a thousand deaths, believing she would pull away. It was an unfounded feeling, but one only taken away when her warm lips touched his. They were warm…
'Celebrían…' He whispered, breaking the touch, his hands catching hers. 'Tell what you feel… I need to know.' Raising fingers for a delicate touch, he traced her face. 'Tell me what is in your heart, gwilwileth.'
Celebrían searched for physical contact, but averted her eyes. She paused a long while before speaking, reluctance imbedded in her every word.
'There is very little I feel, Elrond. I feel fear… Fear that could drive us further apart than just a stretch of land and sea.'
He pulled her with him, to one of the stone benches, but instead of sitting down next to him, she let go of his hands and knelt before him, her ever-cold hands on his thighs. He tried to hide his tears, but she shook her head. The sight of her only increased them. Celebrían leant closer and began to kiss him, his face, his hands…
'I sleep, but do not rest, husband. I love, but dare not feel.'
Elrond sat silent, catching her hands, looking down at her. As he lowered the last barriers between them, those holding his consent for her to leave, she too, could not suppress tears.
'You would allow me to go?' Disbelief, thankfulness, and a dozen other emotions, he could hear in her voice, read in her features, and he brought his fingers to her face once more.
'After winter, I shall let you go to the Grey Havens.'
For a moment, she was out of breath, unable to voice words she could not find. Elrond waited, a fragile smile on his lips. Finally her eyes found his again.
'I will always be with you. You know that, meleth-nîn.'
A feeling of abandonment crept over him more quickly than he had anticipated. Yet his smile remained, as he brought his other hand to her face too.
'How will I cope without you?'
'You managed admirably for so long, before…' Celebrían touched his cheek, her eyes heartening him. 'And I know you shall follow in a little while… I waited, I shall again.'
Strangely enough, the months that followed their decision were cheerful.
Not forced to keep his thoughts to himself, Elrond was able to lie down and sleep, speaking to her, as he had for so long, joining her in dreams.
It was with great love and respect that Celebrían watched him, the dark hair spilling over the pillow, chest heaving, breath audible to her perceptive ears. For how many years would she have to miss that sight? She tried to collect all the small details she had almost taken for granted all those years. Relishing them in her mind… So little time left until spring… One side of her was glad, the other remorseful.
Carefully, she followed the outline of his face, and watched him react when she touched his ear, tracing the contours.
She reclined beside him, her arm around his waist, placing a leg over one of his, her lips close to his ear.
Elrond lazily smiled.
'Is it morning already, my Lady?'
Celebrían let her hand slip underneath his shirt.
'Not yet, my Lord.'
She felt his breath swell for a moment, and his heartbeat increase.
Then he turned onto his side and kissed her, his hand tenderly on her waist.
It was with the touch of a healer, that Elrond sought out the remaining evidence of the minor wounds scattered over her body, injuries that had been inflicted so many months ago. They had almost gone entirely, and he silently admired his own workmanship, assuring himself once more that, in time, no marks whatsoever would be discernable.
As he made to pull away, Celebrían caught his hand.
'Touch me, melethron, I wish you to…'
Elrond looked at her, spreading his fingers on her stomach.
Celebrían smiled, pressing herself closer against him.
'How can I not be, when being in such capable hands?'
Elrond did not smile at her, but instead lowered his face towards her bare shoulder, where the worst of the physically inflicted wounds had been situated. As his lips met the scar tissue, she closed her eyes, trying to relax, not to let him notice her unease. But he did, of course he did…
His hand went through her hair as she felt him leave her shoulder, rising until he looked down at her. Elrond was unsure how, and if, he should go on.
'Should I discontinue?'
Holding back his hair, Celebrían rose to meet his lips.
Allowing himself to be pulled back down, Elrond found her lips again, then withdrawing and sitting up. Before Celebrían had the time to ask what was the matter, he had removed his shirt and swiftly returned into her arms.
'Have I told you how beautiful you are to me?' He whispered, feeling her arch her back under his tenders, her fingers clutching his upper arms.
Celebrían closed her eyes, shivering under his touch. Then a smile, a true smile.
Elrond kissed her neck and inhaled her fragrance, smelled her hair, which had begun to shine again, if only weakly. He too, was desperately trying to store an image of her in his mind, one he could forever hold close.
Celebrían sat in the library, alone at this moment, since Elrond had left her to retrieve something from the nearby study. As she heard someone enter, her welcoming smile was radiant, expecting her husband.
Instead, not that it diminished her smile in any way, she found her youngest, who paused and waited patiently for consent to enter. Celebrían had noticed something along the lines of a pact between the members of the household, even their family. Where most would previously have entered without permission of any sort, all now ascertained they were not intruding, or by some means interrupting one of the scarce private moments the Lord and Lady of Imladris had left together until the coming of spring. Celebrían was amused by it, as she extended her hand to her daughter, bidding her to sit down.
'Come, my little one, I have something to give you, for I shall not be needing it much longer.'
Arwen sat beside her, as Celebrían unfastened the jewel she had carried for so many years, and which had no doubt played an essential part in her physical recovery…
'It was given to me by your grandmother, when she felt the need for it no longer… And now I present it to you.'
Arwen looked from her mother's face to the emerald brooch in her hand. Celebrían smiled.
'I feel it must remain here, with you, though I know not why.'
With a gentle movement she secured it around her daughters neck, for Arwen seemed reluctant to take it herself. Catching her daughter's face, she kissed the forehead before embracing her, feeling Arwen press herself against her chest. Withdrawing a little, Celebrían soothingly swept away the tears from her daughter's face. So like her father… Speaking of which…
Celebrían made Arwen rise, taking her hand and leading her out of the library, finding Elrond on a bench in the hallway outside. Apparently he had not wanted to intrude on mother and daughter. With a smile he extended an arm to Arwen, who sat down next to him and rested her head against his shoulder, tears filling her eyes again. Celebrían sat down on Elrond's other side, placing her head against his shoulder blade, her arms around him, catching one of Arwen's hands.
It was Elrond, who discerned and subsequently motioned Elladan to join them.
As his eldest son sat down beside his mother, and Celebrían pulled him closer with a rueful smile, Elrond met his gaze.
'Where is your brother?'
Elladan nodded to where Elrohir was now standing, having appeared as his brother was called by his father. Elrond kissed Arwen on the forehead prior to rising from the bench, blindly finding Celebrían's outstretched hand for a moment. Releasing it, he proceeded towards his younger son.
Elrond knew he had somewhat overlooked his sons. And where Elladan had been more emotional during all of this, easier to reach out to, quicker to accept, Elrohir had acted strangely detached.
But the father saw the pain of the son, just as much as the other way around. Slowing down, Elrond extended his arm and pulled him close, feeling hands desperately searching for support. Bowing his head, forehead against shoulder, he seemed to have closed himself from the world, until Elrond distinguished an uncontrolled sobbing which must have lain hidden for such a while.
After a while, Elrond gently withdrew a little, and watched his own eyes return the gaze. He smiled, encouraging.
'Go to your mother, Elrohir…'
Elrond watched Celebrían rise and meet Elrohir, stroking his hair as he embraced her, a little taller than she.
This moment, they were as they always had been; the close-knit family he was so proud of. Perhaps they would be once more, in time… Elrond returned to them, not wishing to squander any of these sacred moments any longer.
The first morning of spring had the Last Homely House awake early, but with none of the happy business it had known in the past. The Lady and Lord of Imladris had not needed to wake, for they had not slept.
Having watched Anar rise, making the morning fog escape from the forest grounds, drifting up, moistening the air, they had not moved. Elrond stood behind Celebrían, his arms around her, pressing himself against her, once in a while kissing her neck, holding the silvery hair away, watching the glimmer of gold that was returning ever so slowly.
The previous day and evening had been spent with those closest to them, the children of course, and Celeborn and Galadriel, but also Glorfindel and Erestor. They had told stories, had laughed, had celebrated. For that was how it was going to be.
'I will not let you remain here with bad memories alone,' Celebrían had told him. 'For we shall be reunited, and we have been lucky. I consider all those that did not have that blessing, and realise we should be grateful.'
At midnight they had left the others, wandered up to the higher terraces, looking out over the impressive vale.
'I shall miss this,' Celebrían had spoken. 'For never shall I return here, where so many happy memories lie.'
Then the night had been spent with the singing of favourite songs, soft whispers and lovemaking, becoming more desperate as the morning neared.
Elrond was not to travel with her to the Grey Havens, nor anyone of the household, except her large escort, Elves who would, too, be leaving for the Blessed Realm.
Celebrían knew her husband feared he would not be able to let her go, once there, and end up coming with her. And though there was a part of her wishing for that with all her heart, she knew it would not do. It would not be finished.
They would part here, at home.
Turning around, seeking a tighter embrace, wanting to feel the warmth of his body once more, she caught the glint of tears in his eyes.
'Why are you crying?' She asked him, her face smiling, her eyes painfully relaying a different emotion.
Elrond shook his head, not averting his eyes.
'Separation can be a terrifying thing.'
Pulling him close, her lips finding his, tasting him once more, she threw her arms around his neck, feeling him answer her embrace, and the mild trembling of one that let's go of sorrow, sadness.
'It is fine, husband, all will be well. We shall meet again.'
Elrond whispered, lips close to her ear.
'Until that time, I shall wander in my dreams, to a valley below the western foothills of the Misty Mountains, and there we shall meet.'
'We shall, my husband, I am certain of it.'
Elrond watched Celebrían take leave of her parents, quick silent exchanges going between them. Then of Arwen, who fled into his arms as Celebrían released her. Elladan held her tightly as she flung her arms around him, kissing both his cheeks. Elrohir waited patiently, and Celebrían shook her head at him, before he lifted her as she embraced him securely, pressing her lips against his forehead.
She came last to him, and Arwen released her father, joining her grandparents, seeking her grandfather's safe arms instead.
Elrond gave his most supporting smile to Celebrían, caressing her hair for the last time, until finally he nodded shortly.
'Tenn' enomentielva*, Celebrían.'
Her answer was almost silent, as she sought refuge in his arms.
'Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo*, Elrond.'
Shortly, his lips sought hers, and afterwards both drew back a little, gazes locking. Without speaking, Elrond led Celebrían to her horse, helping her mount, as he had always done when she was departing. Celebrían looked down on him, and extended a hand, touching his face for a moment. Elrond caught her hand and kissed the palm. His eyes pleaded.
Go now, my love, for I fear I shall do something foolish.
Celebrían smiled, and impulsively bent downwards, catching her husband's collar, pulling him close for one last shared kiss in Middle-earth. Releasing him, she steered her horse to turn, and together with the others began her journey.
As he watched the horses disappear out of sight, Elrond prayed she would not look back. If she had, he would not have been able to stay. He would have gone with her without a second thought.
tinúviel: archaic 'nightingale'
meleth-nîn: my love (Sindarin)
gwilwileth: butterfly (Sindarin)
echur herven: stir, husband (Sindarin)(echur comes from an uncertain source)
melethron: lover (masculine) (Sindarin)
tenn' enomentielva: Quenya 'until we meet again'
elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo: (Quenya) a star shines on the hour of our meeting
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.