19. A Shadow Between Us...
Thanks to Jen for some horse-info!
Thankies to Joan for reassurance on the Valinor part…
Note: despite many expectant readers, no real Aragorn bits in this chapter, sorry…
When Elrond learned the choice of his daughter, he was silent, though his heart was grieved and found the doom long feared none the easier to endure.
From Appendix A of Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien
Chapter 19 A Shadow Between Us…
Glorfindel, returning from some errantry to Mithlond*, found Erestor waiting for him at the stables, as he handed his horse to an attendant.
'What is the matter, Erestor? The last time I saw you at the stables was at least a century ago. I would not believe you to be so anxious for my return.'
Erestor did look particularly concerned, which was a strange thing, because usually there was little that troubled the Elf-lord enough to show.
'There was word from Lórien, from the Lady Arwen, and Master Elrond has not spoken since it arrived three days ago. He eats, he curtly answers if absolutely necessary, but nothing more. Even Elladan and Elrohir worry about it… He refuses to speak of it to them, claiming it is of no importance.'
Glorfindel began walking towards the main entrance of Last Homely House, Erestor beside him, taking off his riding gloves.
'You know not what message he received?'
Erestor raised an eyebrow and shook his head.
'I can only guess, and it would not be a very educated one at that.'
'I shall go and see him presently, Erestor.'
The other Elf nodded and bowed off, back to his own work, as Glorfindel made way for the steps of the library.
In the hallway, just outside the entrance, he found Elladan, sitting on one of the heavy carved benches where usually envoys and couriers waited for admittance into the Lord of Imladris's study. Head bent, he was writing, very much resembling his father, and perceptive grey eyes met Glorfindel's when he discerned footsteps with even more perceptive ears.
Glorfindel looked down at him, and Elladan closed the folder, putting it aside.
'How is he?'
'He speaks little, eats little, rests little, works too much.'
'Is that out of the ordinary?'
Elladan shook his head with a glimmer of a smile playing around his lips.
'Jest all you like, Glorfindel, but I fear my sister has sent him news she could have better brought him personally.' Elladan's eyes were as piercing as his father's were, and Glorfindel was momentarily taken by the resemblance, though he had seen it many times before.
'Has he not spoken of it at all?' He finally asked, aware Elladan might be very near the truth. The younger Elf-lord shook his head.
'Nothing, he is silent, while his eyes speak volumes.'
'You have spoken to him?'
'Elrohir tried to, but they had an argument, and now neither wish to speak of that.'
Looking around, realising how strange it was seeing one of the twins without the other, Glorfindel raised an eyebrow enquiringly.
'Where is Elrohir?'
Elladan shook his head and gazed over his shoulder, down into the garden.
'He is somewhere around here… But he hides.'
'From your father?'
Elladan's gaze blankly rested on the wall in front of him.
Elrond sat on the balcony overlooking the valley, head resting back against the wall, eyes vacant. Glorfindel rested a hand on his shoulder and ashen eyes shot up.
'Go away.' Elrond shrugged off the hand and rose to his feet, pulling at his robes, moving to the railing on which he rested his hands. Glorfindel took a deep breath, uncertain on how to continue, but convinced that he had to.
'I shall not.'
Elrond sighed deeply.
'I should have expected you would not.'
'Do you wish to speak of it?'
The Lord of Imladris turned, his voice pitched low, the normal kindness inherent to it disturbingly gone, so drained, so very weary…
'What does it look like, Glorfindel?'
Glorfindel grimly returned the look he was given.
'It looks like you are sulking, and at the same time driving your sons away.'
Shaking his head, Elrond turned his back again.
'Elrohir did the same as you do presently, in the end he left, and I advice you to do the same. I am not good company right now.'
'Arwen… This is about Aragorn and Arwen, isn't it?' The Elf-lord persisted.
Elrond abruptly left the balcony, brushing past Glorfindel, who waited for him to move past, before following.
'Elrond, this is ridiculous.'
He watched the dark-haired half-Elf, last of the Eldar princes of old, slowly turn, voice too peaceful, almost constrained.
'Indeed, Glorfindel, it is, now leave me, for I do not wish to share it.'
Trying to keep his composure, for he was disposed to go over and shake some sense into the other, Glorfindel tried to find words that would help him break through the barrier, the walls that had been constructed in his absence.
'This bitterness, do not let it consume you, meldir*, please…'
The downland she now stood to the side of was coveted by the last rays of the departing Anar*, making the green grasses almost yellow or even a light red, emanating a warmth she could feel flowing through her, taking possession of her, lulling her into peacefulness.
The road, which ran through it, as fickle as sometimes rivers can be, was as empty as ever, no riders today, like there had been none for the past… she was uncertain for how long exactly.
Celebrían left the slopes, and turned towards the forest garden lying in the Lórien* of southern Valinor, the Dreamland, which she now called home.
Yet home is where the heart is, and my heart still resides in Middle-earth… She mused, placing her hand on the bark of a tree in passing, plaintively listening to the final chattering of birds that housed in the trees above.
Still, she smiled, for the deep coolness of the forest reminded her of her own Lothlórien, though the niphredil* only grew here in it's white form, not the pale green variety that had grown on Cerin Amroth, where she had walked as a maiden, and as a woman, a wife.
But why should she not smile? The times that she was aware of the time passing, as she was now, were few.
Celebrían's contemplation made her unaware of the arrival of a figure in grey. Not a sound coming from her movements, the surroundings seemed more a part of her than the other way around; a being not of this world.
But she was not startled by the Vala, the Healer, the most gentle of them all, who had given her the healing sleep after arriving, and now rested a hand upon her arm. With a grateful smile the Elf-lady bowed her head.
Celebrían knew the figure had no real innate form, this present figure only created to speak with her, somehow deemed more comforting.
'You leave your abode in the midst of Lórellin, my Lady Estë?' She asked the wife of the Dream Master*.
A smile, lighting up all around them, passed over the countenance of the angelic spirit.
'Tis not often that I feel one worrying in the Gardens, Celebrían.'
The Elf-lady looked upon her kindly.
'My worries shall soon be over, I expect. There is no need to share in them.'
'He shall soon come, to seek healing for his hurts and weariness, and to join his Lady.' Estë spoke reassuringly. 'But you stand closely to him, though far removed, and share his pain, now that he is growing jaded. Perhaps too much so…'
Celebrían shook her head.
'Sharing his pain is not a burden I am unwilling to undergo… It pains me more that I cannot comfort him.'
'Have you not tried?' There was something in Estë's voice that betrayed she was already very well aware of the answer. Celebrían gave a short nod.
'I have, but he is very stubborn…' She nodded almost imperceptibly. 'He has guarded his mind too closely.
Estë gave a wonderful smile.
'Stubbornness is something most of his ancestors have as well… My husband's brother speaks most highly of it.'
Celebrían smiled in an amused understanding, but the gloom did not leave her entirely. Estë offered a hand.
'I shall help thee, only a little, and it might somewhat displease my husband, but I shall…'
Guided to the soft mossy floor of the forest Celebrían rested her head in the Vala's lap, feeling gentle fingers stroking her hair.
'Close your eyes, Princess of the Firstborn, and may your love and compassion bring you to him that needs it, if only for a little while.'
'Sssh…' Came the whisper, fingers on his lips, when he so desperately wished to ask, to speak. 'We have only a moment, el-nîn*.'
Elrond felt his heart skip at least a single beat, if not more. He caught her hand and removed it from his lips, but not before pressing them against it.
'But how can this be…?'
Celebrían smiled, her hand moving up to caress his face.
'Be still… It is a gift from the gentle Lady, now, do not squander it.'
Celebrían watched the understanding flow into his eyes, together with tears.
'She has left me, left us, Celebrían, made the choice without even…'
Pulling him against her shoulder, she kissed his ear and embraced him firmly.
'But she loves him, meleth-nîn … As I love you… And he is as devoted to her… Should that not be most important?'
'It should,' he whispered, 'but I cannot bring myself to it…'
'You must, Elrond.' Celebrían spoke, firmly catching his head between her hands. 'It is imperative… For if you do not, you shall be her ruin, and possibly cause your own along with it… Do not force her to make a choice between her father and the one she loves… For she will break either you, or herself, whatever she chooses. Love her as a daughter, but do not protect her as a child… Allow her to know the blessing of true love, even if only for a short time… Be the father you are… To all of them…'
'But I fear… Arwen, it will fall difficult on her, in the end…'
'She knows what lies ahead…'
Glorfindel observed Elrond, his shoulders rising, head bending. With quick steps he was next to him.
'Elrond, what is the matter? Are you alright?'
Eyes large, Elrond caught Glorfindel's arm, seeking support.
Oh, Celebrían, I would that you stay a while longer…
Her answer came, as if carried by the wind, and Elrond looked at Glorfindel, who did not seem to hear.Meet me in dreams, my love, open your mind and I shall come…
Then it was gone, and he was utterly alone again. Shaking his head he locked gazes with Glorfindel.
'I think… I am, my friend, as well as I can be.'
Raising his shoulders in a querying fashion, Glorfindel still held Elrond's arm.
Closing his eyes for a moment, Elrond weakly smiled.
'I… A gift from the gentle Lady Estë, spouse of Irmo…'
His eyes growing in amazement for a moment, Glorfindel tried to meet Elrond's gaze.
'What was it?'
Elrond, opening his eyes, strengthened his grip on Glorfindel's arm and pulled him along to the table, collapsing into a chair himself, guiding the Elf-lord onto the one next to it. For a short moment, Elrond closed his eyes again and buried his head in his hands. Glorfindel watched him, afraid even to place a reassuring hand on Elrond's shoulder.
'How is Elrohir?' He mumbled, moving his hands to the side of his head and into his hair.
'I'm not sure…' Glorfindel answered, folding his hands and sitting back. 'Elladan says he's been… hiding… What did you say to him?'
Elrond shook his head and groaned.
'Something along the lines of, how dare you, one who has only been in Middle-earth for so little time, speak in that manner to me, who has defended it many times before you were even sired…'
'I did…' Elrond rested his elbows on his knees. 'Oh, Elbereth help me, I did…'
'Do you wish me to go and seek him?'
Elrond looked up, his ears and cheeks red.
'I better go myself…'
For a moment, Glorfindel didn't think Elrond intended to go; was saying one thing and doing another. Then, rather abruptly, the Lord of Imladris rose and left the library.
Elladan watched his father, receiving a hand on the shoulder, a touch on the cheek, before he walked on. Descending the stairway, his eyes followed Elrond, uncertain of where he was going, but clearly discerning the difference in attitude. Glorfindel was undoing his cloak as he slowly left the library. Elladan smiled at him.
'Whatever you said, thank you.'
Glorfindel shook his head shortly.
'It were not my words, trust me…'
Elladan narrowed his brow.
'Then what happened?'
'He said it was the Lady Estë…' Glorfindel spoke thoughtfully, and Elladan could only stare at him, before silently turning back to the direction in which his father had disappeared.
Elrohir had spent the morning in the stables, but once he had noticed the other Elves working there had begun to irritate him, quite without intending to, he had left, deciding on a walk by the river.
But there, he had been reminded too much of his mother, and he had instead entered the forest along the riverbed of the South Bruinen. This reminded him of his mother as well, but here the memories were of his youth, and he had less trouble dealing with those, their happiness all apparent… With a smile he recalled Elladan's countless tumbles into the river… His own tumbling out of trees… A vivid recollection of breaking an arm, and his father coming running, as if from nowhere, picking him up and examining the injury, shushing him, carrying him back to the house.
He wanted to be that Elfchild once more, he wanted to be able to talk to his father, without the painful memories of his mother lingering somewhere just out of sight.
They, as a family, had all changed, and understandably so… But he felt strongly about seeing his mother again, and he knew his father did too… And now, this news coming from Arwen…
Elrohir could no longer pretend he did not know what this was about. He had spoken with Estel, no, Aragorn, when they had met him on the road. He had not given it much thought, as they had been in a hurry to return to Imladris, but perhaps it was strange for Aragorn to ask about their sister. And yet, it could have been mere courtesy.
Apparently, Aragorn too, had been on his way to Imladris, but somehow, he had been admitted into Lórien instead. Arwen had been in Lórien…
He should have seen it coming… His father should have seen it coming…
And this was all happening because neither of them had been observant enough…
But his father had been right. He should not have presumed to tell him…
Turning around, he found the person he had just been worrying about, the ever impressive Lord of Imladris, and Elrohir shortly bowed his head.
Elrond looked down at the mossy forest floor. Then he looked up at his youngest son.
'I came to tell you…'
Elrohir shook his head.
'I apologise, father, I should not have spoken to you in that fashion…'
Continuing his sentence, Elrond locked his eyes with Elrohir's.
'…The fault lies with me.' He said, giving a short shake with his head, as Elrohir bent his.
'But you were right, father, I am not in a position to…'
'Of all people, you should be, you and your brother…' Elrond interrupted, and Elrohir raised his head to meet his father's gaze, listening to him continue. '… For too long have I been the Lord of Imladris, the son of Eärendil, and for too little time have I actually been father to Elladan and to Elrohir and to Arwen… I know most of what goes on in Middle-earth, but precious little of what passed through the minds and hearts of my children.'
Elrohir was silent.
'And sometimes I forget they hurt too…' Elrond said softly, placing a hand on Elrohir's shoulder.
'What do you suppose will happen?' His son asked softly.
Elrond did not speak, his hand still on Elrohir's shoulder, his eyes far away.
'Hope will weaken, though nothing I foresee is unambiguous… But their joining might restore the kingship of Men…'
'You will allow them to be wed.'
Very slowly, still deep in thought, Elrond shook his head.
'I love them both dearly, but Aragorn knows I would not have her take him to husband as he is now… My daughter shall not diminish her life's grace for no cause…'
'Love is no cause?' Elrohir said, more to himself than as a reproving remark towards his father. Elrond smiled weakly.
What was he to reply? Love, he knew, could be the greatest cause of all, but if Aragorn failed, what would love matter? It would leave his daughter a widow, Middle-earth in the clutches of the shadow… There was no way of winning, for him, Elrond, father of Arwen.
If Aragorn succeeded, he would loose what was most dear to him in Middle-earth. In case of failure, he would lose a man as close to him as a son, see his daughter's heart broken, Middle-earth lost.
A shadow would indeed come between all of them.
'Do you suppose Aragorn will come to Imladris?' Elrohir asked, and Elrond looked at him, as tall as he himself.
'I expect him soon.'
Arwen Undómiel had not hurried after she had crossed the River Bruinen, as she often had done before. Somehow, she did not look forward to meeting her father at present. She had not seen him for many years, had not heard from him except for casual messages brought to Lórien, conveying his love, but nothing more. But she had sent for now, as the Mountains and all that lay eastward were becoming perilous. Her grandfather, ever in agreement, had personally accompanied her to the edge of the Mountains, there giving her into the care of her brothers. Their behaviour had been cheerful outwardly, but their solemnity stayed close to the surface.
As she dismounted, her father's hand was there, and she accepted it, not certain if she should be acting one way of the other, whether he was angry with her or not. His expression did not seem to indicate it.
'Welcome back, my little one.' He whispered as they embraced, and Arwen took Elrond's arm with almost a sigh of relief. She smiled at some of the many Elves of the Last Homely House that had come to greet her upon her arrival, but her mind was with her father.So we speak not of it?
Elrond looked at her sideways, and smiled.Perhaps later, Undómiel, but no, we speak not of it now…
Arwen softly squeezed his arm and weakly returned his smile.
'Have you heard from him?' She asked, trying to make it sound offhandedly.
Elrond shook his head.
'From what I have heard he was nearer to Lórien then to Imladris. He has befriended Mithrandir, and they were travelling towards Mirkwood, last I heard.'
Arwen's face betrayed a little concern.
'But you have spoken with him, since we…?'
The Lord of Imladris nodded, resting his hand on his daughter's arm.
Arwen nodded and bowed her head, her cheeks flushing with relief. Elrond smiled and bent towards her to kiss her head.
Mithlond: the Grey Havens
meldir: friend (masculine)
Anar: the sun
niphredil: a small slender-stemmed flower growing in Neldoreth (Beleriand) and Lothlórien, although in different forms: Lothlórien also had a green variant, where Neldoreth only had a white.
Lórien: the abode of Irmo (Lórien) in the south-western part of Valinor, often called the Gardens of Lórien.
the Dream Master: Irmo (also the 'Master of Desire'), one of the Lords of the Valar, one of the Fëanturi, brother of Mandos and Nienna, husband to Estë
el-nîn: my star
ada: father, dad
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