Arwen turned her head and watched her mother go, grace incarnate as ever, but woven this morning with the strength of mithril and the elegance of an arrow paused before flight. It was a tension Arwen could not explain; she had spent the previous day on a spring excursion and had returned home to a thick, foreign fear. Her mother was packing, her father was simply absent, and no one would tell her what had happened.
Even Glorfindel, whom she could usually charm into spilling the haven’s secrets and gossip, had been unwilling to answer her questions. When she confronted him with the news that her mother appeared to be leaving, he had stared at her for a heartbeat before turning swiftly away, muttering curses at her father in three elven dialects -- and she was sure she heard at least one mannish oath as he stomped up the staircase toward her father’s study.
Still in search of answers, Arwen had sought her mother and was promptly recruited into the hasty packing project.
“Naneth…” Arwen began, questing into the air in search of the words that would unlock this unpleasantness. They would not come, and she grimaced to herself before standing from where she had been seated on the foot of her parent’s bed to find the cloak.
Celebrían glided back into the room, her arms full of parcels. “You have the same note in your voice that El…your adar uses when he knows exactly what he wants to ask but is not certain he wishes to hear the answer.”
Arwen turned with a sigh and folded her mother’s soft gray mantle, uncertain of how best to start. “Where are you going?” she asked, settling on what seemed to be the most benign of the questions crowding her mind.
“Lothlorien,” her mother answered mildly.
Arwen looked briefly to the floor, then left to a painting on the wall, then to her mother’s face. “Why?”
“I have need to speak to your grandfather.”
“What counsel do you seek?”
Arwen knew well what her mother was doing; it was a contest of telling truth that hid more than was revealed. It was a skill all those who knew Elrond had learned, and one that Arwen enjoyed – when it was done in the context of teasing her father with her own coy replies. But Celebrían was not jesting, and against the full power of Rivendell stonewalling the line of questioning was an excruciating exercise in interrogation for which the young elf had neither the patience nor skill to win.
She tried another angle. “Where is ada?”
Celebrían looked to heaven and threw her hands in the air. “Sell-nín, I truly cannot say,” she answered in irritation and grief before turning to her packing again.
The horse was surprised that they were going, but was not unwilling to carry the burdens of one she loved well, and so stood patiently as Celebrían arranged her baggage on the animal.
“Not too much, I hope, Rochmilui?” Celebrían asked, wishing in her deepest heart that her equestrian friend might give her an excuse to stay. But though Rochmilui knew how to gallop like the wind and find the smoothest path, she knew little of the heartaches of the elves, and so merely looked meekly at her mistress before tossing her mane with a horsy sigh.
“No, I didn’t think so,” Celebrían said wistfully as she absently patted the taller creature. “Am I ready?”
Rochmilui did not know, but Glorfindel did.
“By Eru, Celebrían, you are not leaving!” the golden elf exclaimed as he charged into the stable.
Celebrían raised a single delicate eyebrow. “Oh?” she asked.
Glorfindel stopped, halted by the menace in one otherwise benign syllable. He reconsidered his words and settled on a compromise. “You are not leaving … like this.”
“Without an escort, to begin with.”
“Glorfindel,” she started with an exasperated sigh.
“No!” he said, cutting her off abruptly. “I have no idea what happened yesterday, but it nearly frightened me back to Mandos. I cannot, I will not allow you to leave here without at least ten warriors.” Celebrían tilted her head at the big Vanya, and though annoyed at his tendency to mother-hen her, was nevertheless touched at his concern. And he was probably right.
“I will take three,” she answered.
“They will be ready within the hour,” Glorfindel answered. “Which gives you enough time to inform Elrond of … whatever it is that you are doing.”
Celebrían laughed shortly and without humor. “Indeed, Glorfindel? And is he in any condition to hear me?”
Glorfindel merely stared at her before dropping his eyes and scrubbing his face with both hands. “No,” he answered before he looked back up at Celebrían, and his eyes pleaded with her. “Elbereth help him, I have not seen him like this since near the end of the Last Alliance.”
Celebrían was taken aback. “You have seen this before?”
“Aye,” he answered, and passed his hands in front of his eyes as if to clear a vision from them. “Gil-galad used to ask him to walk those dark paths, in search of … anything … that could assist us. Those were terrible days; we could see no way to victory, and merely tried to stave off defeat for another night.” Glorfindel’s voice dropped ever lower, and he seemed to be whispering to himself. “Elrond hated it. He would always return to himself with black melancholy on his heart, and nothing could break it. It frightens me beyond words that we are back to this again, so soon.”
Glorfindel held Celebrían with the intensity of his gaze.
“Please, lady, do not make me be the one to tell him you have left,” he begged. “I do not know which ring it is, but is it not burden enough without the love of his life slipping away without a word?”
“ ‘Which ring?’” Celebrían breathed, repeating back the most critical words. “You knew?”
Glorfindel bowed his head again. “Yes. I have known since Gil-galad gave it to him. It changed him so abruptly that I could not help but know.”
“And yet I did not,” she answered icily.
“A gift, Celebrían, ‘twas a gift. A time of innocence, a time to love without burdens. You must decide, my lady, if your love is what you thought it was; if you can still love knowing that his duties must be higher than his love for you. But remember this: if his duties are higher, his love must be deeper. You must decide if yours is deep enough to meet it.” He turned away. “Your escort will be here in an hour.”
Elrond’s study was strangely darkened, the shades pulled awkwardly against the sun; usually Elrond wished as much light as possible to illuminate his books and scrolls. Celebrían paused at the threshold, uncertain for the first time in her marriage whether she dared disturb him. She gathered courage and walked softly in.
He was seated in his chair, his head bowed so that his chin rested on his fist, his eyes closed. He was there and not there, radiating both intense focus and deep absence, the ring on his finger glowing with the same blue that had filled his soul the day before.
She stared at him and saw not the man who was her husband, her lover, the father of her children, but a great and terrible lord. For the first time she saw the echoes in his face of his true kingliness, not in the majestic benevolence that she had sometimes glimpsed, but in the hard lines wrought by the weight of the thrones of two kingdoms, never claimed but always carried. She recognized in his countenance Gil-galad at his most thunderous and, from memories born of her father’s stories, traces of Thingol in anger. She had never noticed until now how the wrath of Maiar godliness radiated out from features coarsened slightly by the blood of men.
He was a ring bearer, holder of the most powerful force in Middle Earth save only the lost ring of Sauron, and she wondered how closely connected the two were. Did the rings call to each other, she pondered, did a part of him long for the darkness? He was certainly seeking shadow on this bright day -- did he ever wish to claim the tool of ultimate domination for himself?
She wondered how she had missed for all those years what was now so clear. How many times had she threaded her fingers in his without feeling the ring? How often had he caressed her, how often had his hands traced the curve of her breasts, how often had he pulled her hips into his, and she had never once noticed that cold band between his flesh and her own?
And why had he never mentioned it?
She gave him all her mind while held his secret. He freely walked the halls of her soul, yet she had never perceived that sapphire aura that bent the path of thought as he passed. How had she not heard the howling winds of the earth and the knell of the depths of the sea? Ai, the sea! It called to him, and he ignored it in his power. But it surged through him still and she, connected forever to his soul, was powerless to stop the pull of the current that twisted her thoughts in winds to the west.
Overwhelmed she turned to go, her errand abandoned, when his voice stopped her.
“You are leaving, then?” he asked tiredly, pushing himself to his feet before he had truly returned to himself
She paused, her back toward him, and almost against her will turned again to face him. His eyes clear, and she was drawn to their gray depths – for within them he was not the Lord, nor Imladris, nor Vilya, but simply Elrond. Had it not been so, she would have fled.
“Yes, hervenn, I will leave for Lothlorien in the hour.”
“I see,” he said, resigned. “And shall you return?”
“I have need of my father’s counsel, and afterward … perhaps, Elrond Hîr.”
He closed his eyes again and rubbed his brow; her use of his title had not held any of the lighthearted, seductive teasing he was accustomed to, but rather the same awe and fear he received from strangers.
“ ‘Lord Elrond’ Celebrían, is that what I have become to you? I am no different today than I was on the day you married me,” he said sadly, not daring to move lest he frighten her away.
She lifted her chin. “I know; that is part of the problem.”
“I do not … nine-hundred years we have dwelt together, hervess, and never have you closed your mind to me. Never, until now.”
“You could force the issue, if you wished,” she said with false calm, knowing she was baiting him, uncertain why, fearing his response.
He exhaled as if struck and stepped near. He gently lifted his hand to her face but did not touch her, tracing the curves of it without contact. “I would not ever…” he whispered hoarsely. “What do you think I am, meleth-nín?” His nearness made her ache with the longing she usually indulged; she closed her eyes, desiring the caress of his hands and of his mind as she always had. They stood in silence and she warred with herself before breaking toward the door with a groan.
He returned to his chair and bowed his head more deeply so he could not see her go, and but raised his eyes to follow her nonetheless. With heavy heart, she passed over the threshold and gifted him with a single thought:
* Alcaro fara annan i dúath, melethron-nín.*
Alcaro fara annan i dúath, melethron-nín – Do not long hunt the darkness, lover mine
Elrond-Hîr – Elrond Lord
meleth-nín – my love
hervenn – husband
hervess – wife
Rochmilui – Friendly horse.
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.